Unlike most other crops, garlic needs special treatment after it’s been harvested. It needs to be cleaned without water and cured for best flavor and long-term storage. My Spotlight on Garlic article shared with you how to grow and harvest it, but I felt I should do a separate post on curing, including information on how to braid garlic.
When your garlic comes out of the ground, it will be quite dirty. Do not clean it right away. Lay it out in a shady or inside place in single layers to dry. Be sure there is good air circulation.
When I researched how long to dry it before preparing it for curing, I found different recommendations that varied from two days to four days or more. I cleaned mine after two days, but I think next year I will give it four days so it’s a little drier.
To clean, use a soft vegetable brush and brush the dirt off. You will also have to peel one or two layers of papery skin off to be sure the bulb is clean. Be very careful not to remove more than two layers of skin, else your garlic will not have enough protection to store well. Do NOT wash your garlic with water! It needs to stay dry.
While cleaning my garlic, I trimmed the roots to 1/4 inch and brushed away any dirt from the root area. Some sites recommended leaving the roots on until the garlic was fully cured, while others suggested cutting them while cleaning. I chose to trim the roots while cleaning because I intended to cure my garlic in my kitchen. I’m not sure it makes a difference to the quality of the garlic. I wouldn’t think so.
When the garlic is clean, it needs to cure (dry completely) for two to four weeks in a 50 to 70 degree room with good air circulation. Keep it in the light, but be sure it’s not in direct sunlight. Do not remove the stalks until after the garlic has cured. During the curing process, the bulb is drawing energy from the stalk.
I chose to cure my garlic as braids. Here’s where I found another variation in recommendations. Some sites suggested waiting until the leaves were fully dried before braiding, then completing the curing process braided. Other sites recommended braiding the garlic after cleaning when the stalks were still green because it was easier to braid. I chose to braid it immediately after cleaning. It was a little difficult because the stalks were so thick, but I think it was fine.
This was my first time braiding garlic. It may not be Martha Stewart worthy, but I’m pretty proud of myself!
Because I never braided garlic before and I’m a visual learner, I found a great instruction video by Garden Nerd. Here’s her YouTube video on how to braid garlic.
If you don’t want to braid your garlic, you can also cure it flat in single layers.
Either way you cure it, the garlic is fully cured when the skin is papery. You can leave it braided until needed, or you can cut the stalk 1 1/2 inches above the bulb and store in a mesh bag. (Never store your garlic in the refrigerator! It will sprout after two weeks or so.) Cured properly, garlic will keep six to nine months. If you have any damaged bulbs, they will not store well; you’ll have to use them first.
A word of warning: When you first hang your garlic to cure, there will be a strong garlic scent in the room (or the whole house, as in my case); but it will last only a few days. As the garlic dries, the scent decreases. If you like the smell, as I do, it won’t be a problem. But if that’s an issue, you may want to cure your garlic somewhere other than your kitchen.
Now I wait….and dream of all the recipes that I’m sure will taste so much better because I’m using my own garlic!