Garlic is quite common in all kitchens but like any other vegetable, it rots when it remains in constant exposure to air for some time.
So how long does Garlic Last? Garlic can stay fresh for about six to eight months when kept as one whole head unpeeled in a dry place. When it comes to peeled garlic, individual cloves can stay fresh for about a week if kept in the fridge.
Garlic bulbs come out of the ground moist, this may lead to rotting earlier. And you can solve this problem with curing. Once cured, the outer wrapping of garlic acts as a protective layer keeping it fresh for months.
Peeled garlic, however, is much more vulnerable to rotting due to contaminants and spoiling agents invisibly present in the air. There are several techniques including keeping it cold in the fridge that can prolong the life of peeled garlic which we will discuss later.
Why unpeeled Garlic stays fresh longer?
Garlic has an upper hand over other vegetables as it has an outer skin that hardens and protects it when dehydrated. This is beneficial only when garlic has undergone correct curing for the appropriate period of time.
Unpeeled garlic head bulbs are not the only form of protection. The individual garlic cloves also boast of tight-fitting dry wrappers, several of them!
Most unpeeled Softneck garlic varieties can last 6 to 8 months after curing, some may even reach the 12-month mark! So Softneck garlic is the most suitable option if you intend to keep garlic for long-term use.
On the other end, unpeeled Hardneck garlic varieties last 4 to 6 months after which they shrivel and become unusable.
Why you should store Peeled Garlic?
Unpeeled garlic remains fresh for quite some time, so why should you store peeled garlic?
Well, peeled garlic is much more convenient to store and use frequently. Many cuisines including Indian, Asian, and Italian dishes require large amounts of garlic. This stored peeled garlic can be handy in a minced or paste form.
Peeled garlic is void of the protective outer wrapping that encases the entire bulb and individual cloves. Due to the lack of this protection, it is vulnerable to contaminants present in the air, our hands, or utensils (knives and containers).
Thus you need specific techniques to keep peeled garlic stay fresh for a longer period of time and still conserve its taste. We will discuss these techniques later.
You can preserve clean garlic as whole cloves, chopped, sliced, minced, powder, etc. It is up to you how you want to store your peeled garlic cloves.
Why Does Garlic Spoil?
In the air, on all surfaces, and on our hands, minute invisible microorganisms exist. These microorganisms called contaminants contain enzymes that break-down food molecules to sustain themselves.
It just takes contact with a contaminant to start the degradation process of perishable food such as garlic. Besides these contaminants, the components of vegetables themselves begin to break down and spoil after a fixed amount of time.
Nothing is everlasting. Not even garlic!
How can you tell if garlic has gone bad?
Knowing when garlic is spoilt is a tricky judgment but a crucial one, this is because using spoilt garlic could cause health problems.
You can see the signs in appearance, smell, or feel to judge if your Garlic is spoiled. Let us give you a few of the easy to notice signs of rotten garlic below.
Signs of Spoilt or Rotten Unpeeled Garlic Bulbs/Cloves:
- Discoloration of bulbs and cloves
- Swelling (puffy appearance) of the outer wrapping
- Black, grey, or white fungal growth
- Wet patches (immediately separate them from the rest of the garlic bulbs)
- The soft texture when felt
- Awful decaying/sour odor
Signs of Spoilt Peeled Garlic:
(Peeled garlic refers to minced/chopped garlic)
- Dark-colored yellow to brown garlic paste
- Formation of dark spots on the garlic
- Foul smell or sour smell
- Separation of garlic (liquid and mass)
Factors that affect Garlic shelf life
How long does garlic last?
Well, it involves more than just the effects of external factors (microorganisms and degrading compounds).
Other invisible factors play a major role in determining the shelf life of your garlic. These may include everything from handling at harvest to curing and even the genetic composition of the garlic.
Let us look at a few of them below.
1. Harvesting Technique
In order for unpeeled garlic to last long, that outer covering should be completely intact to ward off disease and infection. Rough harvesting or incorrect harvest methods could leave your garlic bulb scarred!
These scars can offer an easy entry to pests, disease, and moisture. Cut bulbs or bulbs with bruises last just a few days before they start degrading.
2. Initial Form of Purchased/Grown Garlic
If you buy garlic from the supermarket, make sure it is only the healthiest bulbs that make their way home along with you. Avoid soft, moist, or discolored bulbs, these are already partially degrading.
Once you get home, assess your garlic purchase to make sure no “bad garlic” is amongst the “good garlic”. This is because it can potentially ruin the entire bunch of garlic.
Curing has no specific time and is only complete once the bulb is free of moisture. Ending your curing period prior to this could be detrimental to your entire garlic harvest. Curing is a vital process that assures garlic will have a longer life than uncured garlic.
Curing is done by people who harvest garlic. That means it is a necessary action for garlic home-growers also.
First-time garlic growers may make the mistake of washing garlic bulbs after harvest!
At no point should garlic bulbs come in contact with water.
Water will soften the outer wrapping and induce the rotting of the bulb. This is another reason why watering stops weeks before garlic harvest, to assure the bulbs are not vulnerable to damage.
Humidity is the amount of water present in the air in a gaseous form. High humidity is just as bad as having water near garlic. It is enough for rotting to commence and spoil garlic.
This means you need a “dry” storing area to give garlic longevity.
6. Sunlight Intensity
Too much sunlight can cook garlic! Yes, you heard that right. Many people think direct sunlight can dry garlic faster, this is false. Such intense heat can cook garlic, leading to reduced keeping life, and diminished flavor.
A shady area with well circulating dry air currents works best for drying this vegetable on a mass scale. Cure them at 60℉ or 15℃ to get the best results.
A factor that is slightly harder to control is garlic genetics. How strong a garlic plant’s genetic composition is will dictate how fast it degrades. Although farmers try to use the best garlic, there are always some weak garlic strains that circulate in the market.
8. Mixing Garlic
This applies specifically to garlic in its peeled and stored forms. Mixing low-quality garlic with a high-quality one can affect the garlic as a whole. Different batches of garlic harvests should be kept according to their respective batch dates.
Label them to identify them correctly. Use older garlic before utilizing fresher batches. Be sure to discard old garlic instead of mixing it with a new batch.
How can you make your Garlic last longer!
You can use the below preservation techniques to keep your garlic stay fresh longer.
Take out the moisture i.e. Dehydrated Garlic
Complete removal of all moisture is called dehydration. Garlic lasts better if dehydrated in a water-free state. You can chop fresh cleaned garlic finely and dehydrate it. Once this is done, it can even be crushed to form a fine yet potent powder or flakes.
Cure it the Right Way
Garlic that has not undergone curing still contains high amounts of moisture in the bulb. Even though garlic itself contains moisture, it is unacceptable for the outer wrapping to have any moisture whatsoever.
All garlic seen in stores is cured products. If you grow your own garlic, you should cure it. Curing efficacy is directly proportional to garlic’s lasting duration.
Preserve Garlic in Oil
Ever seen a jar with clean garlic cloves submerged in oil? This is a highly efficient method of keeping good garlic usable for a long time. As oil is the medium for cooking garlic, it makes more sense as well.
But what is so special about plain old oil? As you know, water and oil are immiscible. The oil will protect the garlic from water. The oil will also form a thick layer over the garlic which even air cannot penetrate.
Store Garlic in the Fridge
Refrigeration is the number one solution for storing vegetables, meats, and even dairy. Many people who incorporate garlic into every meal are satisfied with this option.
Peeled Garlic can stay fresh in the fridge for a maximum of 1 week, assuming you are using an air-tight container and the cloves are whole. Garlic cloves will last less than a week, if not stored in air-tight conditions.
The most appealing part of preserving garlic through refrigeration (deep freezer) is that any form of garlic can be saved. Be it whole cloves, minced cloves, or chopped/sliced cloves. The choice remains yours.
Whole cloves can receive a better-concentrated taste through a process called pickling. Pickling can be done by placing garlic in a glass jar and filling the jar with vinegar or a spirit such as wine. Allow it to sit for a few weeks to get an exceptional taste.
Bad garlic does taste foul and in rare cases, it can cause a serious sickness called botulism occasionally ending in death! Botulism is caused by the infection of a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum.
These dangerous bacteria find a comfortable place in spoilt garlic where it thrives on the secretions and broken down components.
Have a look at your garlic, notice any green shoots (sprouts) protruding from the center? The appearance of sprouts will not pose a threat to your life! Though it is a sign to throw it away and will also not taste very desirable.