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Storing garlic

Storing garlic

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So you've harvested and cured your garlic, now you need to store it. Penny Woodward explains how.

Once garlic bulbs are cured the skins will be papery and dry and the bulbs should feel firm and tightly packed. Carefully remove any diseased, damaged or bruised bulbs. If the damage is only minor then just eat them. This is also a good time to select the bulbs you want to use for replanting. Choose the best and healthiest, set them aside, and store them separately from the bulbs kept for eating. This way they won’t get eaten by mistake. To allow for replanting, 10 to 15 per cent of the crop needs to be retained.

Unless the dry leaves are to be plaited or hung in bunches all the leaves and stems are now cut off, about 3 cm from the bulb. Leave no more than 1 cm of the roots. Just brush off any dirt. Don’t try to wash off dirt or separate the individual cloves, as doing either will radically shorten storage life. In the photo, the white bulb in the middle is perfect for storing. The rest should be eaten. Store bulbs in shallow, cardboard boxes, slatted wooden boxes, on trays, in net slings, in stockings, or in plaits in fact, in any way that allows air circulation around each bulb. The room where they are stored must be reasonably dry, airy and neither too cold or too hot.

Garlic loses its usefulness once it sprouts or dries out, and humidity plays a part in whether this happens or not. High humidity (over 70 per cent) will encourage sprouting, while low humidity will cause the bulbs to dry out and the cloves to shrink inside their skin. Humidity between 45 and 60 per cent is fine. For the home-grower, room temperature is also fine, and storage temperatures anywhere between 12 and 20°C are ideal. Consistency of temperature is important too, so don’t keep the bulbs in a spot, like a tin shed, where the temperature fluctuates dramatically. A dry cellar, cool room or well insulated and ventilated garage would all be fine. I keep mine in a downstairs bedroom.

Check bulbs every few weeks and remove any diseased ones. You’ll know something is wrong if you can smell garlic. This only happens once bulbs sprout, or if there is disease. Properly stored, some garlics will last for twelve months or longer. Cultivars in the Creole and Silverskin Groups are the longest storing types, often lasting longer than 12 months. While Turban Group garlics may only store for 4 months. By growing different cultivars, with different planting and storing times, you should be able to have garlic all year round.