by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –
Every summer, Dean and I spend a measurable amount of time harvesting, cleaning, curing, and braiding the organic garlic we produce in our garden. We use garlic in almost every dish we prepare at home and often utilize its amazing curative powers, as well. I like garlic braids because they are beautiful to look at and compact enough to hang in the kitchen pantry without cluttering things up. But no matter how and in what conditions you store your garlic, there comes a time when the living bulbs begin to sprout and slowly rot. But you can salvage the wonderful flavor and medicinal properties of garlic before it’s too late…
Some would argue that my kitchen pantry isn’t the ideal storage place for garlic – and they would be right – but a least it is relatively dark and considerably cooler than the rest of the house in winter. Even if I had the perfect storage conditions, the garlic would eventually sprout, deteriorate, and mold before drying up completely. It’s inevitable.
I don’t like to waste anything, especially something as wonderful as garlic. So it’s important to me to make it last as long as it possibly can. Besides, in February or March I’m just not done with my garlic yet! After all, the annual garlic harvest won’t come again June and I really need garlic for everyday cooking. Plus, I’ll need a lot of garlic for making salsa, pickles, and pesto for next winter’s larder and all that starts well before June. So it doesn’t make sense to me to let last year’s garlic rot now and then turn around and buy garlic from the grocery a few months later. That’s why I freeze it.
In fact, freezing garlic is one of the best things I have ever done in terms of storage. And honestly, if I didn’t love my garlic braids so much, I might just freeze the entire harvest as soon as it finishes curing in the summer.But as it is, the paper coverings aren’t very pliable early on, which would make peeling it a real chore. As it is, I get to enjoy my garlic braids until about the end of January. That’s usually when the very first green shoots start emerging from the tips of the cloves.
By the time this happens the garlic is aged and mellow and the paper wrappers have loosened up considerably, which makes peeling much easier. I usually try to use up as many sprouters as I can before they get too far ahead of my ability to use them quickly. If I wait too long to process them, the garlic shrinks and becomes rubbery and the heart and small bruises on the toes start to rot – all of which equals a measurable loss in terms of quantity.
Over the years I have found freezing to be the best solution to sprouting garlic. I sometimes freeze a gallon freezer bag of whole garlic bulbs. These can be taken straight from the freezer and baked in the oven with great success. The resulting garlic paste is rich and creamy – perfect for spreading on bread or crackers, or adding to other dishes.
But for everyday use and functionality, I like to mince all the garlic before freezing. It looks like a daunting chore at first, but with the help of a food processor, it usually takes no more than a couple of hours to clean and pack 30 or 40 cloves from start to finish. It helps to handle the cleaning one step at a time. Start by peeling all the garlic. Then go through and trim off any bad spots and the hardened root scars, as needed.
To mince the garlic quickly, a food processor is a godsend! Using the chopping blade and working in small batches, turn the processor on and drop the garlic through the feed tube as fast as you can get it in there. If you try to process too many cloves in one single batch, the result is less minced and more paste.
Once the garlic is minced, I pack it into quart-sized freezer bags, adding just enough so that each bag can be flattened into thin sheets about 1/4” thick before being frozen. After the garlic is frozen solid, I slip each quart bag into a gallon-size bag for odor control. And on that note, it is worth mentioning that in all the years that I have used this method, I have never had a problem with garlicky smells in my freezer, even when I forget to re-zip the bags after using.
With my aging cloves processed and frozen, any time I need a little fresh spicy garlic for cooking (or a lot of garlic for making salsa or pickles) – from January until the June harvest – all I have to do is break off an appropriately sized chunk from my frozen sheet and I am good to go!
Stay tuned to Show Me Oz for my upcoming how-to on garlic braiding!
Until then, happy gardening!
(It’s done! Check it out here: Make Your Own Garlic Braids in 10 Easy Steps!
© 2015 Jill Henderson Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.
Learn how to grow and use the world’s oldest, safest, and most medicinal herbs with this easy step-by-step guide! From starting seeds to preparing home remedies, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs is a treasured resource that you will turn to time and time again.
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.