For the first time I am getting serious about curing garlic, all 83 heads of it that is! In previous years I only grew a few garlic plants and they would all get used up long before I had to worry about spoilage. Right now you can find fresh young uncured garlic at the farmers market, it’s a fun treat if you didn’t grow your own. Fresh garlic is spicy, tangy and very juicy. Garlic doesn’t need to be cured before you can eat it, curing is simply a means to naturally preserve garlic for long term storage, the garlic legend goes; properly cured and properly stored, garlic can last for a year.
When I have had smaller garlic harvests, I set up a couple metal mesh lawn chairs on the shady north side of my big tree, I would lie the garlic over the chair’s seat so the heads were hanging off one edge and the long stems dropping off the other. I just left the garlic sit out in the shady open air for a week or so, until the outer skins around the bulb looked dry. Last week I pulled up a few tester garlics to determine if it was time to harvest or not, I left the tester bulbs sitting on my kitchen counter and they cured up nicely all by themselves. If your garlic won’t impede counter space curing garlic on the kitchen counter seems to work just fine, just don’t try to cure or store garlic in the fridge, after being taken out of the fridge the bulbs will think “winter” has passed and will sprout for “spring”. Sprouting garlic gets bitter, to keep your garlic tasting yummy store at room temperature.
Supposedly it is best to cure garlic unwashed with the roots, stems and leaves attached. Because of the unreasonably rainy stormy weather, I am curing my garlic completely inside the house this year, for the sake of cleanliness I did trim the roots and rinse the bulbs but I left the stems and leaves attached. I wanted to use some of my tester garlic right away, so I clipped a fresh bulb off the stem, they are filled with so much sticky fragrant garlic juice it squired everywhere including all over me! Aside from the culinary value of allowing the garlic juice to concentrate from the stem into the bulb, from purely a tidiness stand point, its worth leaving the stems uncut until after curing.
Once you decide if you are going to clip and wash or just leave the garlic o’naturel the important factor for curing is a dry, shady place with good air circulation. If you leave your garlic out in the sun it will turn brown and go kind of bitter I did this by accident once. On a scalding hot summers day, I forgot my freshly harvested garlic on the front steps, it was more than cured when I found it! In any case before you start the official curing period it’s a good idea to peel back the blacked or mildewy outer casing around the bulb, be careful not to take too many layers off or there will be nothing left to seal and protect your cloves. Curing takes about a week or maybe two, when the bulbs look dry and crusty on the outside they are most likely cured and ready to store. If you crack one open to take a peak each clove should be snuggly encased in a dry parchment like wrapper.
Last night after hauling the garlic in, I was just too tired to rig up any kind of curing situation, so I laid the garlics over dry news paper in our basement suite (that is conveniently vacant right now), after just one night the air downstairs is already feeling damp! Lesson in practice; good air flow is really necessary for garlic curing! I have garlic hanging from the shower rod, garlic draped over open storage bins and garlic between broom sticks support by step stools! The fan is on and the windows are open. It’s a bit non-traditional but all very temporary. Once the initial curing takes place I will move the garlic to hang in bunches in my storage room and hopefully find a tenant that doesn’t mind the residual smell of garlic!