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How long does unpeeled garlic last in fridge?

Garlic is a versatile and aromatic ingredient used in many savory dishes. Its pungent flavor can elevate soups, sauces, marinades and more. Many home cooks buy garlic by the bulb and use it over time. But how long does unpeeled garlic last when stored in the refrigerator?

What is Garlic?

Garlic is a flowering plant that belongs to the onion genus, Allium. Its scientific name is Allium sativum. Garlic plants grow underground bulbs that consist of multiple cloves enclosed in a papery white skin. Each garlic bulb contains around 10-20 cloves on average.

Garlic belongs to the Allium family which also includes onions, shallots, leeks and chives. It likely originated in Central Asia and spread to other parts of the world over thousands of years. Garlic has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes by ancient civilizations including Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India.

Today, garlic remains a popular ingredient in cuisines around the world. Both the garlic cloves and the young greens are edible. Garlic bulbs are the most widely used part and provide the characteristic flavor and aroma.

Active Compounds in Garlic

When garlic cloves are crushed, chopped or chewed, they release an active compound called alliin. Alliin is converted into allicin by an enzyme called alliinase. Allicin is responsible for the potent smell and taste of garlic.

Garlic also contains other sulfur compounds like diallyl disulfide and diallyl trisulfide which contribute to its medicinal effects. Garlic is high in manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium. It also contains fiber, calcium, potassium, copper, iron and vitamin B1.

Due to its high content of bioactive compounds, garlic has been studied extensively for its health benefits. Research indicates garlic may boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels among other benefits.

How to Store Unpeeled Garlic

To get the most out of your garlic bulbs, proper storage is important. Here are some tips for storing unpeeled garlic:

  • Store bulbs in a well-ventilated container such as a wire mesh basket or cardboard box.
  • Keep in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Do not store garlic in plastic bags or airtight containers.
  • Refrigeration can extend shelf life but cold temperatures may cause cloves to sprout.

Storing garlic properly prevents spoilage and mold growth. It also reduces sprouting which can make garlic taste bitter. The best place to store garlic depends on climate and kitchen conditions.

How Long Does Unpeeled Garlic Last in the Fridge?

Properly stored, unpeeled garlic will typically last for:

  • Whole Bulb: 2-3 months in refrigerator
  • Single Clove: Up to 1 month in refrigerator

However, factors like temperature, humidity and initial freshness upon purchase will affect actual shelf life.

Signs Garlic Has Gone Bad

Watch for these signs that garlic bulbs have spoiled:

  • Shriveling or drying out
  • Soft, mushy or discolored cloves
  • Green sprouting from top
  • Moldy growth
  • Unpleasant bitter smell

Discard garlic bulbs displaying these signs of spoilage. Moldy garlic could make you sick and should not be eaten.

Factors that Shorten Shelf Life

Several factors can shorten the shelf life of garlic bulbs stored in the fridge:

Damage

Nicks, dents, bruises or other physical damage to the bulb or cloves accelerates spoilage by exposing inner tissues.

Temperature Fluctuations

Frequent changes in temperature, such as repeated openings of the refrigerator door, can hasten moisture loss and sprouting.

Improper Storage

Storing bulbs in air tight containers or humid environments promotes faster spoilage.

Prior Handling

Bulbs that sat at room temperature for extended periods have a shortened fridge life compared to freshly harvested garlic.

How to Extend Shelf Life

You can extend the shelf life of garlic bulbs using these tips:

  • Purchase fresh, firm bulbs without sprouting or mold.
  • Store loose bulbs in an open container like a wire basket.
  • Keep garlic in a moderately cold fridge area with low humidity.
  • Check bulbs regularly and remove any spoiled cloves.
  • Keep cloves dry by wiping off condensation.

Proper home storage allows enjoyment of garlic’s robust flavor for 2-3 months or longer after purchase.

How to Preserve Garlic

For long term storage beyond 3 months, additional preservation methods are recommended. Options include:

Freezing

Chopped garlic cloves or crushed garlic paste can be frozen for 6-12 months. Frozen garlic maintains its potency well but may lose some texture.

Pickling

Pickled garlic cloves sealed in vinegar can last 12-18 months refrigerated. Pickled garlic softens and mellows in flavor.

Drying

Fully dried garlic cloves can be stored in airtight containers for up to a year. Rehydrate before use. Dried garlic has an intensely concentrated, somewhat bitter taste.

Oil Packed

Garlic cloves submerged in oil can be refrigerated for 3-6 months. Oil packing infuses the garlic with herbal flavor. However, botulism risk necessitates proper preparation.

For long term storage, freezing, pickling, drying or oil packing garlic allows enjoyment of its flavors year-round.

Cooking and Prep Tips for Unpeeled Garlic

Here are some tips for preparing meals with unpeeled garlic bulbs:

  • Roast whole bulbs and squeeze out the paste for spreads, hummus, sauces or marinades.
  • Simmer unpeeled garlic in soups and stews. The flavor infuses as it cooks.
  • Grill unpeeled garlic bulbs to bring out nutty, sweet notes.
  • Add whole unpeeled garlic cloves when pickling vegetables like cucumbers or cauliflower.
  • Make compound butters by blending softened butter with roasted garlic.

Cooking unpeeled garlic bulbs or cloves amplifies their mellow, nutty flavor. The cloves soften and are easily squeezed from their skins after cooking.

Summary

  • Unpeeled garlic stored properly in the fridge will last 2-3 months for whole bulbs and up to 1 month for individual cloves.
  • Signs of spoilage include mold, sprouting, shriveling, softening and unpleasant odors.
  • Ideal storage conditions are cool, dry and well ventilated.
  • Freezing, drying, pickling or packing in oil can safely preserve garlic for 12-18 months.
  • Roasted whole heads, added to soups or grilled enhances garlic’s sweetness when cooked unpeeled.

With proper storage and handling, unpeeled garlic bulbs can maintain their signature flavor and culinary utility for months beyond purchase. Watch for visual and olfactory signals that garlic has spoiled before use.