Don’t Let Your Garlic Die! Make the Most of Your Winter Stash

Don't let your stored garlic go to waste!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.

This garlic is ready to be processed!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.

2015 3-12 Processing Garlic (7)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.

THPOKH-214x321_thumb7Want to learn more about garlic’s medicinal properties? Then check out my book…

The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs

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.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.
Look inside!

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.

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12 responses to “Don’t Let Your Garlic Die! Make the Most of Your Winter Stash

  1. Great advice. I’ve never frozen garlic & now will do that. I use it in everything too so that’s good plan to make it last longer. Thank you for all your timely advice and guidance as usual.

  2. Small problem with garlic since 2007. That’s when Dr H R Clark published that garlic, (and onion and mustartd) are ‘glycating agents’ in the pathway of the cancer complex, that needed to start all maligancies, with some other identified ‘players’ present
    Dr Clark also identified that aromatic oils of these 2 combine with radioactive elements in the body and damage DNA.p.

    Apart from very rarely choping a a love or two for Singapore Chilli Crab dish.. my intak is zero.

    • Thank you, Tom. I have great respect for Dr. Clark and her work – indeed, we have used and implemented many of her methods and remedies in our day to day lives, but I had never heard or read about the garlic reaction before. That’s very interesting and I’m definitely going to read up on it. Yet, with all due respect to yourself and Dr. Clark, I don’t think I could ever give up garlic as a food and a medicine. It’s just sooooo gooood! 🙂

  3. Hi Jill
    We love our garlic too. Also braiding garlic is one of those seasonal rewards where stock is taken and satisfaction settles in. Just a word on peeling them. That’s a long time to peel garlic cloves I think unless is a typo. I’d want to do 30 or 40 whole bulbs in an hour or two. It is better to wait till they’re a bit older as you say the skin gets brittle and loosens on the clove layers but there is a quicker way, five to ten times quicker than just peeling them. My French first mother in law showed me how they do it. Separate the clove from the bulb and lay them out on a chopping board. Then use the flat of the knife laid over each one and crush downwards with the heel of your palm. This will splay out the bulb and crush it a bit without it falling apart but the skin will pull away in one swift movement as you get used to it. Since you’re going to mince them anyway this is fine and even stops the odd annoying little tricksy clove from swirling around and ending up taking much longer than the rest of the tribe to be mushed up with the others.

    • Thank you for sharing that tip, Muhammad! It is a very useful technique anytime you’re processing garlic. That’s the way I do it when prepping garlic for a meal. It works exceptionally well after the skins have loosened a bit. I didn’t use it in this case because I’m a bit heavy handed in whacking the knife and I thought I would have a huge sticky mess by the time I finished peeling them all! lol

  4. to peel a huge amount of garlic in 30 seconds, break cloves apart, place in a large stainless (er whatever you have) mixing bowl, cover with another same size mixing bowl and shake vigorously. Instantly peeled garlic. Old chef trick.

  5. Take whole unpeeled cloves and chop the top off, exposing a little bit of each bulb, brush a little olive oil on and roast for 30-40 mins. If you can avoid eating them all this point, allow them to cool. The bulbs will be easy to then peel or pop out of the clove. Put the bulbs into a container and pop in the freezer. Use them as you would fresh garlic for a milder sweeter taste; I use them as often as fresh.
    Take the top bit you cut off (unroasted) and put them in a jar and flood it with olive oil (and herbs/spices if you choose).
    I’d do this when they are fresh though, rather than waiting until they are sprouting, though of course sprouting plants tend to be more nutrient dense…

  6. Sorry Jill there is a video on you youtube where Ms Clark does indeed say stay away from the garlic and onions and gives an explanation as to why. None the less I love my garlic, but never thought to freeze it.

    • Oh, I believe you completely on Dr Clark’s observations, Warbaby. I have read and respected her work for the better part of 10 years. I just never heard that, but then again, I’ve not read all of her books. What I have heard and read about are how some people have a kind of allergic reaction (not sure this is the right descriptive word to use) to certain chemical compounds present in members of the allium family. I’ll look into that again to refresh my memory.

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