Curing Garlic

July 16, 2007

Sweet success! After planting your garlic last fall, you nurtured the crop through the spring and summer months until those delicious gourmet bulbs were ready to dig.

Once you’ve finished harvesting your garlic there’s one final task to complete… it’s time for a little garlic curing.

Why Bother Curing Homegrown Garlic?

Garlic Bulbs Hung to CureSure you can march those freshly dug bulbs off to the kitchen and begin using them immediately in your favorite recipes. But if you intend to store your bounty for any length of time it’s important that you first go through the process of properly curing those precious garlic bulbs.

The garlic curing process will give the bulbs an opportunity to thoroughly dry and adjust to conditions outside of the vegetable garden. The benefits of curing include the following:

  • Improve keeping and storage qualities
  • Draw nutrients and sugars from leaves
  • Control the growth of mold and mildew

Best Places to Cure Garlic Bulbs

The garlic curing process is simple and doesn’t require any special equipment or fancy temperature controlled facilities. I do all of my garlic curing in the rafters of an elevated kid’s playhouse that I’ve converted into a garden storage area, complete with a compost making area underneath.

If you don’t have a similar structure or outbuilding to use in curing your garlic bulbs just look for a location that offers shade, excellent air circulation, and will keep the bulbs sheltered and dry in the event of rain.

I prefer to cure garlic outdoors but another option would be to use a shed, porch, garage, or to even find a spot inside your home. Just be prepared to live with the strong aroma of drying garlic in the area for a few weeks.

The Garlic Curing Process

Brush large clumps of dirt off of the bulbs and roots, but don’t fuss too much over their appearance at this stage. I have heard of growers that wash their bulbs before curing but that idea sounds a little scary to me and I prefer keep the bulbs completely dry once they’ve been dug up.

If you followed my advice in the article on harvesting garlic then you left the leaves and stems attached to the bulbs, this will make it easier to bundle and tie the garlic for curing. Gather the garlic in bundles of seven to ten bulbs and tie them together with string, twine, or a roll of the flexible, coated, twist-tie material.

From here it’s off to your curing area where the garlic can be suspended with plenty of room between the bundles to allow for good air circulation. Now you sit and wait. I usually give the bulbs at least three weeks to cure before taking them down for storage.

Pampering and Storing Garlic Bulbs

After the garlic curing period is over you can clean up and decorate if you’d like, just don’t apply any water in the process. Start by using a pair of scissors to remove the stem and leaves, and to trim the roots. If you raised soft neck varieties and intend to braid the bulbs then of course you’ll leave the leaves in tact.

Most of the remaining dirt can simply be rubbed off of the bulbs by hand along with any torn clove wrappers or skins. Many varieties of gourmet garlic are actually quite attractive and even colorful. To fully enjoy the display or if the wrappers are stained you can carefully remove a single layer of the bulb’s wrapper.

Store your gourmet garlic in mesh onion bags, paper sacks, or in shallow layers on trays or boxes. Store the garlic indoors in a cool, dry, area, but avoid refrigerating homegrown garlic to prevent premature sprouting. Don’t store bruised or damaged bulbs with the others, instead eat them first.

Also, remember to set aside some of your largest and best garlic bulbs to use as your seed corp to replant in the fall. With a little luck your properly cured garlic bulbs should last well into the winter and maybe even supply you with tasty garlic cloves into the following spring without spoiling.

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  • Oops…I think I cut a little more off than need be with mine, but I do have four heads drying on wax paper in my kitchen. I have no problem with the smell of garlic in there for a few weeks — I love it!

  • Kenny Point

    Genie, your garlic will cure without the leaves but they do make it easier to bundle and hang the garlic bulbs, especially if you have a large harvest to deal with. I don’t mind the smell of garlic in the house either but I thought I’d better put that warning out there.

  • Thanks for the great information! I’m looking forward to drying my first crop of home grown garlic soon.

  • Kenny Point

    You’re welcome Kathy, if you enjoy garlic the garden doesn’t offer much better than fresh gourmet garlic bulbs. I harvested my crop today and bundled it up to cure. Also brought a few bulbs inside to make some garlicky guacamole and to roast a few bulbs this weekend!

  • Good Morning Neighbor,
    You are right, nothing beats home grown garlic. I harvested over 35 lbs. a few weeks ago and it is now ready to go into storage. Before I put it into mesh bags, as you suggested, I separate it into two piles. The biggest and best go into the seed bank for next years crop. The rest goes to the kitchen bank and to friends. I have been raising crops from original seed I purchased 10 years ago. The garlic that I am now growing has taken on a distinctive local flavor. I found that over time garlic will acclimate itself to the area in which it is grown.

    Kenny, keep up the good work. “Grow Local, eat Local.”

    Jim Davis


    For years I have dug up the garlic… hosed off the bulbs, cut off the stems, and put them out to dry under the porch on a home made rabbit (1/2 in.) wire square. The garlic turned out great, but after reading your methods I’m wondering two things… 1) What is the difference going to be and 2) Is it necessary to do it your way or the way I’ve been doing it? Thanks.

  • Kenny Point

    Don, it sounds like the biggest difference is that you wash your garlic bulbs off before curing them and I prefer to keep them as dry as possible. I have heard of other growers that wash their bulbs off as well so it’s just a personal preference that I do not. You said that your garlic turns out great so I would say to just continue doing what works well for your garlic.

  • I have some garlic with seed heads on them. Can I still harvest them or should I leave them in the ground for next year? thanks.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Marge, yes you can still harvest the garlic after the bulbs finish filling out. Most growers cut the garlic scapes off soon after they make their appearance.

  • Lou Rose

    Hello, after growing garlic for several years and curing properly, I find that when I store it in my basement where it is cool and dry it becomes withered and dehydrated come early spring. What could be the problem. Is it too dry and how about putting a bucket of water near by for moisture? Do you have any answers or suggestions? Thank you. Lou Rose

  • Kenny Point

    Hello Lou Rose, unfortunately my garlic does the same thing after a while in storage. Probably due to less than ideal temperatures and humidity levels indoors during the winter. Some garlic varieties hold up better than others. I don’t think the bucket of water would make much of a difference but you can try it and let me know if it helps.

  • Toni Elka

    Hi Kenny and the rest, My husband just harvested our first crop of soft neck garlic,washed them off, then came in to see if we could find some information about how to cure them. Thanks to all for the great information. btw – We missed the scapes we used to get with our hardneck crop. Why don’t the soft necked ones have scapes?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Toni, I’m not sure if there is a scientific reason that the softneck garlic varieties don’t produce scapes, but at least they can be used for creating garlic braids and wreaths, something that you can’t do with hardneck garlic varieties.

  • Paul

    I have found that toward the late winter and early spring some of my garlic starts to sprout and shrivel. I freeze my garlic at this point. It seems to me to taste the same when cooked. It is not quite as good in fresh applications, but it is better than rotten garlic. Also, freezing makes the garlic peel easier than a bananna. I grow only hardneck varieties here in upstate New York, and these gerneraly don;t last as long as softneck, but hardnecks up here get huge.

  • Catherine

    Wow! I am so happy to have found your site. This is the best cache of garlic info that I have found. Thank you! I harvested my hardneck garlic yesterday (about 300 plants) and will cure them as you suggest. My question is regarding re-planting my fall crop in the same bed. Some say its o.k. and others suggest a different location. Can you please comment. C.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Catherine, in my opinion it’s always best to rotate your annual crops but sometimes that’s not as feasible especially in smaller sized gardens. So rotate if at all possible, and if not be alert and pay attention to any signs of disease building up in your soil or decreases in the production of your garlic or other crops.

  • Lisa

    I believe my garlic crop is ready to harvest. This is my first time doing so and I have been looking up as much info that i can find on how to harvest and cure properly. Thanks for all the info I’ve read from this site!!
    I read on a another site that I should stop watering my garlic for a couple of weeks before harvesting. So far I haven’t seen that anywhere else so I’m wondering if someone can comment on it. I’m really looking forward to my home-grown garlic. Thanks!

  • Barbee

    Hi Kenny,

    Love your site so much, I find reason to visit all the time…an invaluable resource for sure!

    Please help! I had a problem w/ my garlic this year and I can’t seem to find an explanation. What happened was that I pulled all of my ‘early’ garlic last week because the leaf growth looked ‘odd’. They were nice, fat, purple, fully formed BUT … outer wrappers! The cloves themselves each have a single wrapper but no outer…wha???

    Of course my first reaction was to check the internet for possible causes, cures and to see if this garlic can be sucessfully stored-to no avail. (These are awesome FAT and TASTY cloves. I NEED to find a way to plant this seed for next year.)

    Anyway, I seem to recall you mentioning this problem before but I can’t find it. The answer must lie here somewhere,,.if only…if only…you had a search engine. Hmmmm…wonder how much that costs???? ’cause that would be awesome. Your site has gotten so HUGE and comprehensive that a search function is almost a necessity at this point. Please consider adding one.

    BTW. (You’re gonna LOVE this) I was doing a standard google search for something (I forget what) and I looked at the 1st page of results (like any other normal person) and guess who had an article that was 1/2 way down the middle of PAGE ONE???? Guess! Guess Who! Was it YOU???? YUP! Sure was!

    I wish to goodness that I could recall the subject but what I do recall was that you had written the article in 2008 or earlier and that there were 135 comments AND some were as recent as last month. Kenny, you are going mainstream and we are all better off for it. We appreciate your time and dedication to this site. I know I have learned more here than even my own local University Extension site. (They could learn a thing or two from you! LOL)

    Maybe Texas garlic if diff form yours but as always thanks for any advice you can offer. Your loyal fan-barbee

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks Barbee, that is odd about your garlic and typically the wrappers below ground are just an extension of the leaves that grow above ground! If you have leaves… you’ll have, or had wrappers. My guess is that you may have waited too long to harvest and the bulbs may have begun to split out of the wrappers and then the wrappers disintegrated. Also, did you have much rain during the weeks right before the garlic matured and was harvested? That could also add to the problem. But the garlic will grow without the wrappers… you’ll just have to figure a way to preserve them until you are ready to replant. I might put them root end down in a tray or container and and pack with slightly moist sand or soil until planting time.

    As far as the site search is concerned you can use the google search box and check the “This Site” button before you click search… then the search results will display for information found on this site only. I’m in the process of revising the formatting of the entire site and the search feature will be improved and automatically select for information found here at Veggie Gardening Tips.

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  • Lydia

    I am in southeast OK and I recieved some elephant garlic from my aunt. I have harvested some, but was considering leaving about six plants in the ground over the winter. The harvested ones had tiny hard cloves attached to the main bulbs and I was wondering if they will continue to grow and re-plant my bed next Spring ?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Lydia, those tiny hard cloves can be planted and will develop into full sized bulbs of elephant garlic but it will take a lot longer than if you replanted the regular cloves.

  • Catherine

    Hi Kenny, Well, its almost garlic harvest time here in the Okanagan (British Columbia) and my question this year is regarding the scapes. I plant the garlic in early winter at our summer home on the lake. This year I was late in arriving and have discovered all the plants with fully developed scapes – I am busy cutting them all off and we are eating the less woody ones. My concern is that I left them on too long and the bulbs will suffer in size and development. The flowers have not yet blossomed. What do you think? I’ll check back in with you after the harvest and let you know how they do – I’m going to leave them in the ground for 2 -3 more weeks.
    What is the right/ideal time to cut the scapes?
    Many thanks for all your wonderful advice.

  • Kenny Point

    Catherine, I always remove the scapes when they appear although some years I didn’t get around to it until later. I wouldn’t worry about the delay too much and there are some gardeners who don’t remove the scapes at all and still get decent production. It is easier to remove them shortly after they start growing and that is also prime time to enjoy them in the kitchen.

  • Burl Cheely

    Here in southern Wisconsin: first time grower of shallots and garlic, as well as elephant garlic. Scapes are just starting to fall, plan on harvesting mid August. Shallots are almost “floating on the soil. Is this a problem? Burl

  • Kenny Point

    Burl, that shouldn’t be a problem at all, my shallots and potato onions behave like that all the time and I still get a good harvest from them.

  • Kyrie

    Hi there,

    I’m located on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. This was my first year growing garlic. I planted hard and soft necked varieties, and the soft necks were ready about a week before the hard. I let them all lay out in the garden to cure, because the weather here is famously mild. I gathered all the soft necked bulbs today to braid, and to my utter dismay, they all appear slightly, well, roasted. (The hard neck garlic is fine). I feel foolish for leaving them out in the sun. I am wondering if there is anything I can do with the garlic now, before it rots. Any suggestions or is it a lost cause?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Kyrie, that’s probably the worst thing that you could do to freshly harvested garlic bulbs… leave them laying in direct sunlight! They should be cured in a warm, dry, and shaded location. I don’t know how quickly they will rot but seriously doubt that they will store for any length of time. I would try one to see how it taste and then figure out a way to process or prepare them that would allow you to use them before they go to waste.

  • Sandra

    Great website!
    I harvested my first small garlic crop today, and after shaking off the dirt have the bulbs resting in the garage to dry. I think I may have waited too long to harvest though, as a few of the bulbs are split open and there are no outer wrappers left (the leaves and stems are pretty much completely dry…). Can I still store these? or can I / should I use them up right away? (… I’m assuming that curing is only for preserving for longer-term storage, and that you can use up fresh stuff right out of the garden!).
    Thanks for your advice!

  • Paul Conway

    I would use the bulbs that split open during the next couple of months and use the ones that didn’t split open for storage. If the bulbs that split still look good by early October I plant these and I find they make fine garlic next year.

    Paul Conway,


  • Kenny Point

    Hi Sandra, the garlic with the split wrappers probably won’t keep for too long so it’s better to eat those first… yes, you can eat freshly dug garlic right from the garden.

  • Larry

    A Question and a comment: In NW Iowa I planted 125 hardneck garlic last fall. My question is some of the garlic didn’t develope a scape or seed pod. Those bulbs were actually (usually) larger than the others that did develope the scape. I planted bulbs from previous years crops. I enjoy broadcasting there small seed from the bulbs and giving the next years crop to friends. They are small but most people starting in the garlic craze don’t go overboard anyway. It is a great way to make friends and get in best with the chefs at the local hospital. They don’t use it at the hospital but take them home for their own useage.
    I have a hand chopper with three blades that I mince quite a lot of my garlic. I mix it with olive oil, press it into a ice cube tray with real small compartments and then freeze them. I remove them later and store in the freezer in a ziplock bag as long as you would like. I just grab a couple and throw them in the pan and cook. Also it makes a great friend getter for those who like garlic but don’t grow them. It works for me……. Larry

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Larry, some garlic varieties (“softnecks”) don’t develop a scape at all and even the hardneck varieties may not develop a scape depending on the elevation and growing conditions that they are raised under. Sounds like you’ve gotten very good results with your garlic crop!

  • John

    Kenny, I hope you still monitor this great site. I started planting a few garlic cloves about 5 years ago here in Maryland. I noticed when I harvested the first year’s plants, that I had small (size of a little fingernail) cloves growing just off of the harvested large clove when I pulled them up. I would estimate maybe 5 small cloves outside each large head. I cannot find any reference to these but oddly, these are what I replant every year after a month or so of drying and the following year I get excellent full size cloves without sacrificing any of my good large cloves for planting. Is this wrong or am I missing some more flavorful garlic by doing this type of reseeding?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi John, thanks for visiting the site. I’ve noticed the type of scale cloves that you mentioned growing from leeks and elephant garlic plants and replanting them is a perfectly fine way to propagate the plants. It may take longer to grow to maturity but the harvest will be just as flavorful as any other.

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  • Marianne

    For the last three years our garlic has molded. We have planted it in a different area each year thinking it was to wet. This year we had a drought so it was not to wet. My son thinks there is somthing eating the roots. Help!!

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