How Long Do Garlic Cloves Last?

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Health benefits. Flavor benefits. All hail the mighty garlic.

Health benefits. Flavor benefits. All hail the mighty garlic.

People have enjoyed garlic seemingly since the beginning of time. Even our most ancient ancestors knew it to be a powerful vegetable/herb (yes it is a vegetable and an herb). In a time before modern medicines were available this plant was practically an entire pharmacy. The many healing properties of garlic allowed for several different uses from several different cultures.

As useful as garlic is, it is still somewhat of an unknown food to some of us. We know we like it on bread, in pasta, and several other dishes. But how many of us know how to store it or even how to tell if it is good or bad?

Where’s the expiration date?

Because garlic cloves are typically purchased as an unpackaged and fresh ingredient, there is no product expiration date, or best used by date when you buy it. So knowing how long a clove of it will last you before it spoils may include some trial and error. But there are some guidelines that I’ve learned to help determine how long garlic can last.

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How long does it last?

The shelf life of garlic can vary greatly, mostly because it is a fresh ingredient and it really depends on how long it has been sitting the grocery store. The good news is that garlic has a very long shelf life so you generally have some time before it goes bad on you.

  • Whole garlic cloves can last anywhere from 3 to 6 months
  • Garlic bulbs can last you from one to two months
  • Freshly chopped garlic should be used a little quicker as it only has around a week in the fridge before it begins to go bad

As you can see, that there are large gaps between the least amount of shelf life and the maximum shelf life you can get from garlic. This is because there are so many different variables that come into play, but that guideline should help.

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How to store garlic

Storing garlic – correctly – can allow you to maximize its potential shelf-life. The proper storing techniques are to keep the garlic in the dark and store it in a dry area that is room temperature. Keep it in a container that allows for air circulation, no plastic bags or closed containers (this will encourage mold growth and drastically reduce the life of the clove).

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Some good ways to store garlic are in a wire mesh basket, mesh bag, paper bag, or in any other container that allows circulation.

Don’t refrigerate!

Also, do not put the garlic in the refrigerator while it’s still whole. Remember, keeping it away from moisture is essential for extending its shelf-life, and the fridge is moisture’s best friend.

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Do refrigerate!

Once you have removed the garlic from its skin, the life expectancy of it will begin to go down quickly. Once you have peeled, chopped, diced, or done anything else that requires you to take it out of its protective layer, that is when you should put it in an airtight container and store the garlic in the fridge.

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How to tell when garlic has gone bad

Even though garlic lasts a very long time, like any other food, it does eventually spoil. Knowing, and being able to read the signs of when food has gone bad is paramount to food safety, and when it comes to garlic, that rule still applies.

When looking at garlic, you can tell when it is beginning to go bad by the color of it. If you see any discoloration like tanning or yellowing, then you can safely assume it is starting to reach the end of its life cycle. If it has any brown spots, you should go ahead and toss it.

Good for you. Good for your food. Bad for mosquitoes and vampires. Is there anything garlic can't do?

Good for you. Good for your food. Bad for mosquitoes and vampires. Is there anything garlic can’t do?

You may also begin to notice new sprouts growing from inside the center of the clove. These are bitter tasting, and it is something that you will notice immediately. You can remove these from the clove and still use your garlic, though the flavor is slightly less pungent at this point. 

Health Benefits

Garlic could have its own book based on all of the health benefits it has and how they have been implemented throughout history. One of the greatest benefits is that it is instrumental in fighting off symptoms of the common cold as well as flu symptoms.

It is also great for your skin and hair. Taking it on a daily basis (in its raw form) can even combat heart disease, lower your blood pressure, and help to regulate blood sugar levels. To get these benefits, it is necessary to ingest it in its raw form. Also, don’t bite into the garlic, or else you’ll get that infamous “garlic breath.”

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Wrap – Up

Have you ever wondered why pop culture has decided that garlic scares away vampires? Well, I have, and it stems from the use of garlic in repelling blood sucking insects like ticks, mosquitos, and fleas.

That is how much garlic is a part of our lives, and how beneficial it is. We make entire folklore about its uses and draw parallels to its disease fighting properties by depicting it as a tool for keeping demonic creatures at bay.

Just make sure you don’t eat them once they have gone bad, or it may end up having the opposite effect.

Additional Resources

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Jon B. and Markus S.