Don't be fussy when it comes to garlic storage. Simply keep the heads together and allow for air circulation.

garlic Ten Mothers Farm
Credit: Ten Mothers Farm

Where would we be without garlic? Pungent when raw, mellow when cooked, it adds a delicious aroma and deep flavor to so many dishes. Yet beyond garlic's ability to turn recipes from good to great, there's another reason to love this workhorse of an ingredient: From a storage standpoint, it's one of the most low-maintenance foods you can have in your kitchen. Garlic benefits from a pretty hands-off approach: Give it the air and space it needs, and it'll love you back.

The first thing you need to remember about storing garlic is that it keeps best when kept together. Resist the temptation to break the cloves off the bulb until you're ready to use them, and leave them together, covered in their paper covering. They'll stay fresh longer this way—we've seen them keep well up to six months!

Second, don't fret too much about what kind of container you keep the garlic in. A terra-cotta or ceramic container specifically designed for garlic storage is great, but so is a paper or mesh bag, a wire basket, or even just a simple bowl. The goal is to encourage the circulation of dry air, which is why a plastic bag is a no-no since it seals in moisture.

Finally, stash your garlic someplace dark and cool. The pantry is a good spot (the refrigerator, not so much)—that is, as long as you keep the garlic away from potatoes (garlic, onions, and other alliums emit gases that can hasten sprouting in those spuds). Why keep garlic away from light and moisture? These conditions contribute to sprouting (which doesn't necessarily mean the garlic has spoiled, but sprouted garlic—you'll know it by its small green shoots—can taste bitter) and mold growth.

Once you start breaking the cloves off from the bulb, the garlic will begin to deteriorate. After removing the first clove, you probably have about 10 days to two weeks before the remaining garlic on the bulb begins to sprout.

Now, if you've peeled more cloves than you need, the fridge is actually the best place to store them—wrap them in plastic or put them in a sealed bag or container for up to a week. Chopped generally doesn't last more than a day in the fridge, but you can eke out another two or so days if you cover it in olive oil. The truth is, though, leftover peeled garlic rarely needs to be stored, since adding a bit more garlic to whatever you're cooking probably won't hurt.


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