I am one of those people who could use garlic in any recipe (other than a dessert, of course) because I like how it overpowers, but also enhances other flavors.
One would assume that I rarely have the opportunity to put the shelf-life of garlic on the test because I use everything all at once, but, trust me, it happens.
If you have garlic that has been sitting there for a while, I hope this article will help you get a clear image of how long is it safe to store it and how to prolong its freshness.
What you need to know about garlic shelf-life
As I mentioned, the shelf-life of garlic will depend on the state the garlic is.
While this can also be affected by how long the garlic was stored in the grocery store and its quality, I can give you some general guidelines about the longevity of garlic:
- A whole unpeeled garlic head can last up to six months if you store it properly.
- A single unpeeled clove, on the other hand, can remain usable for about three weeks.
- Single peeled clove can last up to a week, but only if stored in the fridge, because, with skin off, garlic is more prone to decay.
- Chopped garlic can last up to a day, or about three days if covered in good quality olive oil and stored properly.
Long shelf-life starts with the right purchase
Oh, the pre-peeled and pre-chopped garlic in the store looks so tempting.
I’ve been there, and I bought it a couple of times, to avoid my fingers getting the strong smell of garlic which is very difficult to get rid of, and to save some time. However, unless you are going to use it instantly, it is always better to buy whole unpeeled heads of garlic.
A smart purchase also means you have bought the freshest garlic there is.
But how do know which head is fresh?
- Simply pick it up from the shelf, or farmer’s market stand, and give it a light squeeze. None of the outside cloves should be too dry, hollow, or soft. It should feel firm and not dehydrated. Sprouting is another indicator to keep an eye on because it means the garlic is old.
How to know when the garlic has gone bad?
Back to the original issue here: you have some garlic collecting dust for days, weeks, or months, and you want to know is it safe to use it.
While there is no sure test to check this, garlic shows some obvious signs when it’s spoiled.
For starters, it has brown spots on the cloves, and the cloves are yellowish-tan instead of white.
New sprouts in the form of green roots in the center of the clove are another clue.
How to store garlic properly?
Preventing the garlic from going bad is the best way to know it will be safe to eat even after some time.
Here are some tips that will help you prolong its usability by storing it the right way:
- Unpeeled heads of garlic should be kept in a dark, dry, cool, and ventilated place. No, that is not the fridge. The fridge is moist and too cool, and it encourages the garlic to sprout. Think about something closer to room temperature, such as the pantry.
- Store the unpeeled heads in an open container, like a paper bag, a mesh basket, or an egg carton.
- Avoid plastic and closed containers.
- Peeled cloves, on the other hand, should be stored in an entirely different way. Keep them in the fridge in a tightly closed container.
- The shelf-life of chopped garlic will be prolonged if you cover it with olive oil, and store it in the freezer in a sealed jar or another type of container.
How to use extra garlic which is on the verge of spoiling?
Remember the signs of spoilage I’ve mentioned above? If they appear on the clove, but they are not impacting most of the garlic, you can still clean and use the healthy parts, but you need to do that quickly.
I like to use it to make a delicious garlic sauce for a juicy steak or sink it in melted butter, leave it for a while, and then spread it on Italian bread. Later I put the bread in the oven for a brief time, and enjoy the amazing crunchy dish.
Also, you can plant the cloves with green sprouts in the ground (just slightly below the surface) and water them well. This way, I can have fresh garlic whenever I want.
Garlic is a fantastic ingredient for various culinary endeavors.
However, it is not something we use in large amounts, so it is possible to have entire heads or just cloves sitting around for weeks.
That’s why you need to know how long is it OK to store the garlic, how to do it, and how to use it when it is close to its expiration.
If you notice the garlic has gone entirely bad, don’t use it.