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?
Sure 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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