Okay. Maybe not forever and ever. Still, curing garlic does make it last a lot longer. And as far as I’m concerned, you can never have too much garlic on hand.
Garlic is easy to grow. It’s pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it plant. You place your cloves in the ground in the fall, and then like magic, you have fresh garlic in late spring or summer! Plus, garlic makes a great garden companion as it repels a lot of the pests that like to munch on other early vegetables. It also repels vampires, so it’s really the perfect garden crop.
The only drawback (if you can call it that) is that you might end up with a whole lot of garlic all at once. Certainly, you can enjoy fresh garlic. But if you don’t intend to eat it all right away, curing garlic is the key to longer-term storage.
Making it last: 12 important tips for harvesting and curing garlic the right way
Before we get into curing garlic, let’s talk about harvesting garlic. Like many vegetables, the variety and weather both impact harvest time. Most garlic is ready to harvest when the lower leaves of the plant turn brown, but the upper leaves are green. Here are some tips for harvesting garlic.
1. Dig it out with a trowel or potato fork. The University of Massachusetts Extension Vegetable Program points out that pulling garlic without loosening the soil could result in tears around the stem, leading to fungal infections. Instead, use your garden tools to gently dig and pry up garlic bulbs. Once the soil is loose, you can pull them by hand.
Here are two I like:
2. Be gentle. Fresh garlic is tender and can bruise easily, which also opens the door to infection.
3. Brush garlic bulbs clean. Remembering to be gentle, brush or shake off any loose dirt. It’s okay if you don’t get all the dirt off. We’re going for generally clean here, not perfect.
4. Keep garlic bulbs out of the sun. On hot, sunny days, garlic can get sunburned!
Once you’ve harvested your garlic, set aside some to enjoy over the next week or two. With the rest, let’s start curing garlic! Here are some tips for doing so.
5. Be patient. Curing garlic takes three to six weeks, so make sure you have a space that’s out of the way where you can let your garlic hang out undisturbed.
6. Keep it dark. Dark spaces are generally preferable for curing garlic or any vegetable for long-term storage.
7. Keep the air flowing. Good ventilation is important to help decrease moisture.
8. Use chicken wire. Chicken wire or a standard window screen are great surfaces for curing garlic, as there is plenty of airflow around the bulbs that way. Just be sure the screen is elevated and relatively level.
9. Hang garlic bulbs to cure. Instead of chicken wire or a screen, you can also hang garlic bulbs to cure. The same tips apply otherwise: You still want a dark space with plenty of ventilation. But this is another option if you don’t have room to lay out a harvest of garlic bulbs.
10. Check back in about two weeks. While curing garlic can take up to six weeks, it may only take a couple of weeks if the conditions are just right. You’re looking for dried stems and that brittle, papery skin that garlic bulbs develop.
11. Remove tops and roots. Once your garlic is ready, remove the stem and the roots, leaving about 1 inch of the stem on top and about 1/2 inch of roots on the bottom.
12. Store your garlic appropriately. Under these same conditions (comfortable temperatures, moderate humidity, and good ventilation), your garlic will be good for another month or two. For longer-term storage, keep your garlic just above freezing, with relatively low humidity and good airflow. Your garlic will keep anywhere from six to nine months.
Do you have any garlic curing tips to add to this? I’d love to read them in the comments.
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