Before using garlic, it is good to know how to store it. It is possible to have wonderful Australian garlic all year round!
To keep garlic fresh for any length of time care must be taken.
- As the garlic is taken from the soil it must be cured for four to six weeks.
- Harvest the plants when they are about one third browned off and cure the whole plant.
How we cure our garlic
We cure our garlic by placing it on racks in our sheds, making sure there is a good airflow and no direct sun. It is important that the shed does not get too hot or humid.
After curing, we remove the roots and tops and place the garlic bulbs in our store room, a room that is partially in a hillside so it stays cool. Long term storage of garlic requires a temperature of between 10° and 18°C. This is important. Do not refrigerate as 4°C is the ideal temperature to cause garlic to sprout! If you have adequate ventilation, a good temperature and your garlic has been properly cured, you can expect it to keep for up to 6 months after harvesting.
Eventually, nature must take her course and the cloves will sprout.
If you freeze whole cloves you will have nice tasting garlic but will lose most of the medicinal qualities. To ensure the best result, crush or slice the fresh garlic, let it stand for 15 minutes and then freeze. The exposure to the air will activate the medicinal qualities and the freezing will preserve them.
Some people use ice block trays to good advantage. Freeze in blocks and store in freezer bags. Easy!!
Dehydration is probably the best way to preserve the medicinal qualities of garlic as well as the delicious taste.
Remove the skins and base scar on cloves, slice about 1-2 millimetres thick and dry in a dehydrator.
You can also use a warm room or oven but you may lose temperature control and spoil the garlic. A medium heat is best – too high and the garlic will turn brown, too low and the garlic won’t dry totally and will spoil. We dry to the point where the garlic is still slightly flexible – a bit like dried banana chips.
Dried garlic will lose weight, about two thirds of its fresh state. It will remain strong tasting.
We dried a few kilos this year and find it lovely crushed in scrambled eggs, tossed in stir frys, crushed and sprinkled over salads or many other meals. It tastes great and we love it used this way. Only a little needs to be used to give a good strong garlic taste.
So far the garlic we dried has kept for over six months with no noticeable deterioration. If you don’t have the time to dry it yourself, we will be drying some for sale later in the season.
Garlic in Oil
Garlic cannot be kept in oil for more than a few days at room temperature or a maximum of three weeks in a fridge. Botulism can result if these times are exceeded. Botulism can be fatal. Commercial garlic in oil in the shops has an acidifying agent such as vinegar which should prevent botulism.
However, we think adding vinegar detracts from the taste of the garlic. We have heard that you can infuse oil with garlic for a few days, then remove all garlic from the oil and the garlic flavoured oil will keep until it eventually goes rancid.
We haven’t tried this ourselves and think the potential issues which can occur when storing garlic in this way make dried garlic much more appealing.
There you have it. You can store your garlic in various ways, depending on your preference.
Growing your own garlic?
If you grow your own garlic as we do, a great way to use it is to pull the garlic up before the bulb has formed and it resembles a spring onion. These spring garlic sprouts can be used in salads, stir frys, eggs and in any other ways in which spring onions are used.