Garlic is small but has a myriad of uses that range from culinary to medicinal. Therefore, it is an all-time favorite crop among organic gardeners. But, while you may smile at your bountiful garlic harvest, poor storage and preservation may render your organic gardening efforts useless. Just like all crops, garlic should be harvested, stored and preserved appropriately to retain freshness and flavor. So, how do you store garlic for months? Garlic is stored as whole heads for months or one year depending on your storage conditions. But, they can be stored for longer if dehydrated or frozen.
How to store and preserve garlic
Select the best quality garlic for storage
Whether you are happy with your entire harvest or not, there are a few quality issues that you must consider before storing your garlic. Choosing best quality garlic for storage prolongs their shelf life and increases success rate during preservation. Avoid storing garlic with soft bulbs, sprouting bulbs, damaged bulbs, and cloves. Such garlic should be used first after harvesting. Store garlic with fresh bulbs, firm and papery skin.
Storing whole heads
Select whole and unbroken heads in a cool, dry and dark place. The simplest way to store and preserve your whole garlic heads is placing them in mesh produce bags. The mesh bags are ideal because they provide the much-needed air circulation the garlic needs to remain fresh and retain its flavor.
Refrigerating garlic especially cured heads is never a good idea because they can easily sprout due to the temperature. But, if pickled, they can be stored for a number of months without sprouting or going bad. To pickle your garlic; peel enough cloves and put them in a jar full of vinegar and salt. You could also add herbs such as rosemary or chili peppers for a more gourmet flavor. Refrigerate the jar and ensure that you use the garlic within two months but give them a few weeks to absorb the gourmet flavor.
Garlic can be stored and preserved longer in the freezer. Garlic is frozen as whole cloves that are either, unpeeled, peeled or chopped. Chopped garlic should be wraped in an airtight wrap or bag. When you need to use chopped garlic, you either break it off or grate the frozen block. You can also store and preserve garlic that has been pureed in oil. You simply peel the garlic cloves and blend them with oil using a blender or food processor. It is advisable to use olive oil because it does not freeze completely. Roasted garlic can also be frozen. Bake garlic bulbs for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees until they are soft. Chop off clove tops and squeeze the roasted paste out. The roasted garlic remains soft, so there is no need of thawing before use.
If you intend to store the garlic for long-term use, it is advisable to dry them. Peel the cloves, slice them thinly and dehydrate them until they become crispy. The dried crispy cloves can be stored in the freezer or at room temperature in a container. Dried garlic can be grounded to powder form before use or used as they are.
There are many ways of storing and preserving garlic after harvesting. You just need to do your research and determine the method that works for you in regards to storage space and convenience. You can always consult organic gardening experts in your region when stuck!