If you fancy cooking your food with garlic, you likely always have a few bulbs on hand. And as with all vegetables, you have probably found that garlic doesn’t always stay fresh. So you are here because you want to know how long garlic actually stays good for, and perhaps how to store it so it retains its quality longer. Well, we have it all here. Read on.
Does Garlic Go Bad?
The answer is, yes. However, garlic does tend to have a longer shelf life than the majority of items in the produce department.
To keep your garlic fresh the longest and enjoy its health benefits to the max, make sure it is stored properly. Whole garlic heads stored in a cool, dry place will essentially have a longer lifespan than single cloves. The moment you pluck the little pieces from their mother head, your garlic’s time starts ticking.
The vegetable will go bad even much faster when it is peeled. It is therefore recommended that peeled garlic be kept in the refrigerator at all times.
How Long Does Garlic Last?
The lifespan of garlic is highly dependent on how the produce is stored as well as its type. Kept at room temperature, garlic can stay good for an incredibly long time.
As stated, whole garlic heads will live the longest. Stored correctly, they can last for up to six months. Individual cloves will not stay good very long. They will only last about three weeks to a month.
If possible, always avoid peeling or slicing garlic before storage, as this reduces its life significantly. Peeled garlic only lasts a week while cut cloves stay fresh for just a day.
You could extend their shelf life by cooking them or dipping them in oil, but they will still not last for as long as whole garlic that still has its papery skin intact. To keep your peeled, sliced, or minced garlic fresh, make sure it stays in the refrigerator, in an airtight container.
If you have purchased one of these processed jars, be sure to check the date on the package to know how long the product will stay good for. Typically, commercially jarred minced or chopped garlic will retain its quality for between two to three months in the refrigerator.
Below is a summary of how long garlic will stay fresh in different forms.
|Unpeeled whole heads||4 to 6 months||N/A|
|Unpeeled single cloves||3 to 4 weeks||N/A|
|Peeled cloves||Not recommended||7 days|
|Homemade sliced/minced/chopped garlic||Not recommended||1 day|
|Store-bought sliced/minced/chopped garlic||Not recommended||2 to 3 months|
4 Tips to Tell if Garlic Has Gone Bad
It is important to know when your garlic is unsafe to eat. Some of the most common signs will include:
1. Change in Color
Garlic that is no longer good to ingest will tell you so just by looking at it. For example, you may notice brown spots on individual cloves. Also, the color may be more closer to yellow than white or starting to turn blue-green in the case of red/purple garlic.
As garlic ages, it may start to sprout. The new shoots will usually be green in color, mostly originating from the center of individual cloves.
The sprouts may not be harmful to ingest, but they will taste incredibly bitter. If you are going to cook such garlic, make sure to chop the shoots off and inspect the center of the clove to find out if it has started to rot.
3. Bad Smell
Garlic has a distinct savory scent. If yours smells sour or has completely lost its aroma, that is an indication that it has gone bad. Simply get rid of that garlic and inspect the rest of the bulbs to make sure they are not contaminated.
4. Soft to the Touch
Fresh, healthy garlic will be firm, more like an onion. Give the cloves a little squeeze before peeling. If they feel soft or mushy, don’t use them. Depending on the extent of spoilage, you may also notice some liquid oozing out of individual cloves. Toss out such garlic right away.
4 Tips to Store Garlic
If stored properly, garlic can stay fresh for months. Here are a few tips to store garlic correctly without losing its potency or reducing its shelf life.
1. Store Garlic Whole in a Cool Place
Storing your garlic whole is by far the best way to keep the vegetable fresh for an extended period. When the head is broken, garlic’s shelf life decreases significantly.
It’s also important that the vegetable stays in a dark, cool place. While it will retain its original quality at room temperature, the ideal temperature for garlic storage is usually between 60° and 65° F.
2. Keep Garlic Dry
One of the enemies of fresh garlic is moisture. Humid environments accelerate spoilage, causing the produce to go bad prematurely. Unfortunately, if you live in humid climates, you may not have control over this, especially during summer. But there are a few tricks you could apply to keep your garlic fresh.
For example, ensure you are not storing garlic in plastic bags. Plastic bags are unbreathable and not only will they keep air from circulating; they will also trap moisture, which will speed up spoilage.
Another trick is to avoid storing the vegetable in the crisper drawers of the refrigerator. Instead, place it on the standard shelf of the fridge. If you really want to put garlic in the crisper drawers, make sure to lower the humidity settings and avoid storing it near a bunch of other vegetables.
3. Place Garlic in a Ventilated Area
Garlic will need to breathe to keep fresh. If you store it in a sealed area, it will get moldy or start to rot. Pick a well-ventilated area to store the produce. Also, as mentioned, do not put it in a plastic bag. Go for mesh bags, but best will be no bag or container at all.
4. Buy Fresh Garlic
One of the most important things you can do to make sure your garlic stays in good shape the longest is to ensure the garlic you are buying is fresh, to begin with. When selecting garlic heads, go for those that feel firm to touch, with tight, dry skins.
Also, check to see the garlic isn’t moldy and doesn’t show any indication of germinating. If you see any of these signs, skip that garlic.
For more tips on how to properly store garlic, watch this video:
The Risk of Consuming Expired Garlic
Ingesting garlic that has gone bad can cause foodborne botulism. While the illness is extremely rare, it can have some serious symptoms that can be potentially fatal.
The bacteria responsible for causing botulism, Clostridium botulinum, normally forms inactive spores that can be harbored by low-acid food items like garlic.
In certain conditions such as when the acidity levels go lower or when there is reduced temperature, moisture, or oxygen, these spores can become active, causing the development of the bacteria that causes botulism.
If your garlic is not stored properly and the toxic bacteria spores become active, you will likely get sick from consuming the vegetable.
You will experience symptoms such as dizziness, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, or even double vision. If you develop such symptoms after consuming garlic that has been in storage for some time, you should seek medical assistance right away.
But botulism aside; moldy or mushy garlic tastes awful. And sprouting garlic will not be so ‘garlicky’. So, even if you don’t fall ill, you will certainly not enjoy any dishes the garlic is used with.
Can You Freeze Garlic?
Yes, although freezing may change the flavor and texture of garlic, it is a great way to store the vegetable, especially for people who don’t use garlic frequently or those who have leftover garlic that they would like to preserve.
There are two ways through which you can freeze garlic. You can either store it whole and unpeeled or peeled and cut it into small pieces.
To freeze whole, unpeeled bulbs, make sure you have plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a freezer bag. Wrap the garlic properly or place it in the freezer bags, then store it in the freezer. From there, you can use single cloves as needed.
Freezing sliced garlic is no different. Simply grate the vegetable and wrap it in aluminum foil or put it in an airtight freezer bag. Try portioning the garlic into smaller sizes so you can defrost only what you need to use.
This video shares more insights on how to freeze garlic. Check it out!
Garlic lasts relatively longer than most vegetables in our kitchens. But if not stored correctly, it can go bad pretty quickly. Follow the guidelines we have shared here to ensure your fresh bulbs stay good for as long as possible. If they show any signs of spoilage, get rid of them immediately, as consuming expired garlic can have some serious health effects.