The Dos and Donts of Harvesting, Curing and Storing Garlic

For many gardeners, it’s been a long time coming. After planting our garlic last fall, those beautiful and flavorful bulbs are finally ripe for picking! But is it as simple as plucking the plant right out of the ground and pressing it into your next meal? Not so fast. There are a few things you should know before harvesting fresh garlic from the garden.

A Long Process

I, along with my fellow Northern gardeners, planted my Quebec garlic last fall. I watched happily this spring as the garlic began to sprout in the garden, well before anything else was in it.

Harvesting Garlic

And early in the summer, I harvested the delicious garlic scapes from the stalks and enjoyed them in some pesto.

All in all, I’d say my first garlic growing experience has been rewarding. Of course, it’s a longer process, but between the scapes and the current harvest of the garlic bulbs, I’d do it all over again next growing season.

When To Harvest Garlic

You’ll know garlic is ready to harvest when you notice the foliage on the garlic stalk begin to yellow or brown and look sad.

Harvesting Garlic

Essentially, the foliage is dying back, similar to what potatoes do when they’re ready for harvest.

Be sure to get the garlic out of the ground before the stalks are completely dry. Garlic is at its best and is most flavorful picked when only the lower two-thirds of the leaves have dried up.

How To Harvest Garlic

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook recommends gently digging garlic out of the ground with a small shovel or spade.

Don’t pluck it out of the earth by grabbing onto the stalks. Garlic is delicate and if it bruises, will not store well.

Harvesting Garlic

Carefully brush the soil off the garlic bulb; don’t wash it. Take a look and see what kind of wrapping the bulb has. If picked too early, it will be thin and quickly disintegrate. If harvested too late, the bulbs might split apart, and the skin will likely tear.

Curing The Garlic

Cure the garlic bulbs (with the stalks still attached) in a shady, dry spot with good air circulation. This process will take about two weeks.

The Farmer’s Almanac says you can cure them in an open box or hang them from a string in bunches of four to six.

Storing Garlic

After about two weeks, check on your garlic. If the wrappers are dry and papery (similar to what you’d buy at the store) and the roots are dry, then they’re ready to be used in your favorite recipes.

Also, check that the roots are dry and that the cloves come apart easily.

Brush off, never wash any remaining dirt, and trim the roots to ¼ inch. Finally, cut the tops to one or two inches.

Harvesting Garlic

Cured garlic keeps well in a cool, dry, dark environment for several months.

Don’t forget; set aside some nice-looking bulbs for planting in the fall so you can start over again!

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  • Dorothy Fuller says:

    My husband and I have a beautiful “garden bed” of garlic. It is basically a hobby. We love growing it and eating it and giving it away . Love what we have read in this article also Thanks

  • Dave Wygonowski says:

    Not sure where you got your information on not being able to eat garlic straight from the garden, but that is not true.

    • Andrew Reid says:

      I would assume that much like Cannabis, it s best to let them cure for a while.

    • Dennis Danzl says:

      Some of the most uniquely flavorful garlic is that which is nearing maturity bu not quite the there. Why miss out on that?

    • Catherine Sherriffs says:

      @Dennis Can’t wait to try some fresh out of the garden. I like to cure mine so I can have some for many months. Enjoy!

    • Catherine Sherriffs says:

      @Dave You can eat it fresh out of the garden; curing it helps you keep it longer than three weeks. Enjoy your garlic.


Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.