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How do you store unpeeled garlic?

Garlic is a popular and versatile ingredient used in many savory dishes. Its pungent flavor adds depth and complexity to soups, stews, sauces, meat dishes, and more. While garlic is available year-round, it is at its freshest and juiciest during the summer and fall months. When buying garlic, opt for firm, plump bulbs with tight skin. Unpeeled garlic can be stored for several months if done properly. Read on to learn the best ways to store fresh unpeeled garlic and make it last.

Storing Whole Unpeeled Garlic Bulbs

Whole, unpeeled garlic bulbs will keep longer than peeled cloves. Each bulb contains up to 20 cloves covered with a papery outer skin. This skin helps protect the individual cloves from drying out. Here are some tips for storing whole bulbs:

  • Choose bulbs that are firm and heavy for their size with no soft or moldy spots. Avoid bulbs with green shoots as they tend to have a bitter taste.
  • Trim any loose or dirty outer layers off the bulb, but leave several layers of papery skin intact.
  • Store bulbs in a well-ventilated basket, bowl, or other uncovered container. Do not seal them in plastic bags which can trap moisture and cause spoilage.
  • Keep garlic away from sunlight, which can cause it to sprout and shorten its shelf life. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Ideal storage temperatures are between 55-65°F with low humidity. Avoid refrigerating.
  • Under proper conditions, whole bulbs will keep fresh for 3-6 months.

Storing Peeled Garlic Cloves

Once peeled and separated from the bulb, garlic cloves will only last a few weeks at most. Follow these guidelines for maximizing peeled garlic’s shelf life:

  • Start with fresh, firm bulbs. Avoid mushy cloves or those with green sprouts.
  • Peel off the papery outer layers and break bulbs into individual cloves.
  • Place peeled cloves in an airtight glass or plastic freezer container. Leave some air space at the top.
  • Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the cloves to prevent oxidation and drying out.
  • Refrigerate for up to 10 days. The oil will solidify and help block air exposure.
  • For longer storage, freeze peeled garlic submerged in oil for up to 3 months.
  • Properly stored, peeled garlic stays fresher than chopped or crushed garlic.

Storing Minced Garlic

Chopping or mincing garlic ruptures cell walls and exposes more surface area to air. This accelerates the loss of flavorful compounds and causes garlic to spoil faster. To optimize shelf life:

  • Always mince garlic just before using. Don’t prep too far in advance.
  • When recipes call for minced garlic, consider substituting garlic paste from a tube. It will last longer.
  • If mincing ahead, store chopped garlic covered in olive oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • For longer storage, freeze minced garlic in oil in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop garlic cubes into freezer bags.
  • Garlic salt or garlic powder can be used to replace fresh garlic in recipes. These products have a shelf life of several years.

How To Tell If Garlic Has Gone Bad

Watch for these signs that garlic has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Mold or slimy spots on cloves or bulbs
  • Withered, shriveled, or soft cloves
  • Green sprouting in the center of cloves or bulbs
  • Brown spots or discoloration
  • Dry, crumbly texture
  • Off or rotten aromas

Garlic that has gone bad may be unsafe to eat. When in doubt, throw it out.

Key Tips for Storing Garlic

Follow these crucial tips to get the most out of your garlic and keep it fresh for as long as possible:

  • Buy only high-quality bulbs that feel firm and heavy.
  • Leave skins on whole bulbs and clean off only outer dirty layers.
  • Keep bulbs dry and store in cool, dark conditions between 55-65°F.
  • Once peeled and chopped, store cloves covered in olive oil in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Avoid storing garlic in plastic bags or sealing in containers long-term.
  • Check regularly for signs of spoilage like mold, sprouting, and softness.
  • Use frozen or powdered garlic when fresh not available.

How Long Does Garlic Last?

When stored properly, garlic can maintain quality and taste for extended periods. Here are typical shelf lives to expect:

Garlic Type Refrigerator Freezer Pantry
Whole unpeeled bulbs 1-2 months N/A 3-6 months
Peeled cloves 10 days 3 months 1-2 weeks
Minced garlic 5-7 days 6 months 3-5 days

As you can see, whole bulbs stored in a cool, dry pantry will maintain freshness the longest. Once peeled and prepped, garlic should be refrigerated or frozen to slow deterioration. Follow the best practices outlined above to enjoy garlic’s robust flavor for months after purchasing.

Conclusion

With its pungent, aromatic flavor, garlic is one of the most widely used ingredients around the world. Getting the most out of fresh garlic means storing it properly to prevent spoilage or loss of potency. Leave whole bulbs intact, store in breathable containers in cool, dark places, and watch for signs of mold and moisture. Once peeled and minced, garlic can be refrigerated or frozen in oil to prolong its shelf life. Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to enjoy the distinctive bite of fresh garlic for up to 3-6 months after buying.