The Power of Canning

Garlic has a well-deserved reputation for being easy to grow, easy to harvest, and easy to use. Many gardening books describe it as the first vegetable in which you can become self-sufficient. Just grow somewhat more than you need and replant some of the cloves each year.

But the one area of garlic where I used to struggle was preserving it. Strong it in the basement, I just couldn't get it to avoid going soft over the course of a year. It would be fine for months, then turn to mush. So much of it was wasted.

Beginning last year, I canned most of the garlic I was saving in vinegar, using water-bath canning techniques. The result has been amazing.

Not only does the garlic last much longer, but being in the vinegar softens it. When I need some minced or mashed garlic for a dip or a fry dish, I can simply use the flat side of a knife to flatten a garlic clove or two on a cutting board and throw the resulting mash into the dish.

So I not only can keep my garlic longer now, but the stored garlic is easier to use.

Yet I rarely see discussions of canning touch on garlic or similar bulbing or rooting vegetables. Many gardeners seem to find it so easy to dry and store their garlic, it would never occur to them to suggest canning.

This works for onions, too. I have canned sweet-and-sour onions in sugar and vinegar, and the result works well on sandwiches and burgers.



  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,483 admin

    @VermontCathy I still have garlic that is over 12 months old, its not soft but a little discoloured sometimes. I love your tip to can it in vinegar, I will give that a go with this seasons harvest. Have you ever heard of black garlic, you basically put it in a slow cooker on 60 degrees Celsius (140f) & slow cook it for about 10 days. It turns out almost black & has the most wonderful, scrumptious flavour. You leave it in the papery skin to do this & then just store it in a container in a place where the temp doesn’t change too much, lasts for ages & is wonderful in all sorts of cooking.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2023

    I have had garlic go soft at about a year old, usually about the time it starts sprouting. I've never heard of canning it, but this sounds like a great idea.

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have had the same experience with my garlic going soft early. The idea of the canned garlic being so easy to use is attractive. I will have to try canning some this year.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JodieDownUnder I have heard of black garlic, but I always assumed it was a different variety that was naturally black. I didn't realize it was garlic slow-cooked at low temperature.

    Crops like garlic don't add a lot of calories to the diet, but boy do they help with flavor and variety. And since garlic can be quite expensive to buy, especially out of season, it really makes sense to grow a year's worth yourself and store it somehow.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 742 ✭✭✭✭

    Black garlic is great!

    I think canning garlic is a good idea. It had not occurred to me before.

    I ferment alot of garlic in honey- preserves it as medicine and food. Double useful.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,454 admin

    we use Garlic every day. We prefer it fresh. We slice a few garlic cloves and put on bread and butter. The same with fresh turmeric. Every day. We have a good, very cool storage place where garlic keeps fresh until March. Since April the soil gets softer in the garden and I can harvest fresh garlic. But, with changing climate there can be periods without fresh garlic, thus the idea of preserving is a great one. Thank you for the idea @VermontCathy

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Fresh garlic is tasty, but I think it would be difficult to have it available year round. As @jowitt.europe wrote, it won't keep past March, and you won't get the next crop until well into summer. So a mix of canned and fresh garlic may be the best compromise.

    I like many dishes that could be thought of as stir fry or boiled. Often the first step is to fry onions and garlic in oil, then add the other ingredients, including white wine, water, or vegetable juice. Then bring it all to a boil and cook until done.

  • DozenElk
    DozenElk Posts: 6 ✭✭✭

    I wonder if the hard neck garlic plants, or soft neck garlic plants is the cause of some going soft. I plant Walla Walla garlic and it will dry out and get hard and yellow at the end of the year. But not soft. So I wonder if the type of garlic grown is the difference???? Just a thought! I live at a high altitude with very short growing season, is why I grow Walla-Walla garlic.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,377 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have never tried to grow garlic. I'm going to have to watch some videos to learn how. I had never thought of canning it either but it's a good idea. I love garlic and put it in almost everything!

  • JennyT Upstate South Carolina
    JennyT Upstate South Carolina Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am hoping to try "pickling" garlic this year. So it will probably be like your garlic in vinegar you mentioned, @VermontCathy.😋

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @kbmbillups1 Garlic is extremely easy to grow. It's cold-tolerant, heat-tolerant, and soil tolerant. You don't need to start it indoors, either. Unlike most other temperate-zone crops, you plant it in fall and harvest the next summer, even in cold zones like my Zone 4.

    All you really need is soil loose enough to let the bulbs form, a reasonable amount of soil nutrients (because alliums don't produce long roots), and decent sun.

    You can even buy garlic bulbs from the store, break them up into cloves, and plant the cloves. Each clove will turn into a full garlic plant with a head that produces multiple cloves. In cold climates, I recommend dumping a load of leaf mulch on top of the soil to give it some insulation through the winter.

    There is a much wider variety of garlic bulbs available from seed-sellers than is available from your grocery store. Get some and experiment. Save some of the best bulbs to replant, and you won't need to buy it again.

    @JennyT Upstate South Carolina Enjoy it! It sounds very similar to what I did. I used small quarter-pint jars because you don't use much garlic at a time.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @helpfulgranny2 I grow both soft and hardneck garlic, and I find that 9 - 12 months after harvest both have become soft and less palatable.

    I suspect it has more to do with storage methods. I do not have a cold cellar or unheated basement, so my (not canned) garlic has to be stored in the house under normal living conditions. It probably goes soft faster that way than if stored properly.

  • Marjory Wildcraft
    Marjory Wildcraft Posts: 1,613 admin

    @kbmbillups1 You can get a video all about how to grow great garlic free here at this link

  • Marjory Wildcraft
    Marjory Wildcraft Posts: 1,613 admin

    I made some almost inedible home made pesto from carrot tops and waaayyyy too much garlic. I mean eye-watering-you-gonna-cry-its-too-much-garlic.

    I put it into half pint mason jars in the freezer. And shocked that uh, was it 6 months or a year? later (and dang it, yes I forgot again to put a date on the jar...) But I was amazed that almost all of the garlic flavor was gone. I mean completely gone.

    So freezing in pesto doesn't work. LOL

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am growing Black Garlic for the first time this year. I grow three other varieties but forgot to mark them.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,377 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Marjory Wildcraft Thanks for the video it was very informative.

    @VermontCathy Thanks! I'm going to try growing some next fall.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,156 ✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy Canning??? Never thought of it, but this is now on my to do list! Thanks!

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,113 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy I think you are probably right about the storage conditions. I have the same problem with no good place to store fresh foods long term.

    My garlic goes soft and mushy. Have only tried once to grow it so far. It made it through our Alaska winter just fine, removed the mulch then got busy at work and hubby forgot it was there and didn't water it. Planted 75 cloves ended up with 6 surviving. lol

    Did not get it ordered last year. Will get some this year and try again. Also waiting to see if my horseradish survived. Third try for it. Some critter really liked the first two times and ran off with it all. No tracks, no digging. Just gone. Planted some in an old bathtub last year it was beautiful but roots were too small yet to do anything with.

    The canning idea sounds like it would be great for both. Though I prefer raw or in honey for the health benefits, a combination of the three ways would give me garlic through the whole year.

  • MissPatricia
    MissPatricia Posts: 318 ✭✭✭

    I chop up cloves of garlic and pour avocado oil (apparently, olive oil is not a good substitute) over it, and put the jar in the freezer. Time consuming, but then I can take jar and put it in refrigerator and use as needed.

  • Sheila
    Sheila Posts: 108 ✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy be very careful about the garlic you get from the store. Most of it comes from China and has White Rot (as does most of the garlic from California as well). Your garlic will grow the first year but you now have the fungus in your soil and it will destroy future crops and is impossible to eradicate except with time (about 10 yrs) and avoiding planting all alliums in that location.

    I also either freeze (peeled cloves) or confit (roast in oil then freeze) my cloves when they are starting to turn and that lasts me until the new crop is in. We planted over a thousand cloves last year and I am just waiting to find out if any drowned :S Sooooo much rain this year.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Sheila Actually, I think most garlic sold in the US comes from California, specifically from the Gilroy area. The Gilroy region has been called "the garlic capital of the world," because the growing conditions there are perfectly suited to garlic.

    But I agree with your larger point that white rot and other diseases can be found in vegetables purchased at a store, and it's always good to be cautious. This is especially true for garlic, potatoes, and shallots, because any virus in the root will be passed to all future generations. Vegetables that go through a seed phase have a chance to avoid passing a virus to the seeds, though this is not guaranteed to work.

    Kelly Winterton discovered that when he grew potato onions (which normally propagate by planting bulbs) by way of seeds, the resulting plants produced much larger bulbs, probably by getting rid of much of the virus load that had accumulated in the bulbs.

  • Sheila
    Sheila Posts: 108 ✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy actually about 60% of all garlic in the US comes from China. Here in Canada it is closer to 80% which is scary when you think about it. We used to grow all the garlic we needed in country but then moved to imports as it was "cheaper" and easier to access year round.

    The garlic grown in most of California actually comes from seed garlic grown in other states. White rot is insidious and transfers easily on infected plants, soil on the bottom of your shoe, bags that held infected material etc. It is a major issue for production and people need to be very careful they don't introduce it into areas where it has not taken root yet. It can destroy anywhere up to 80% of a crop and it survives for a very long time in the soil just waiting for the right plants to bloom again.

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    Do we need to harden off our garlic like we do butternut squash, keeping it on the vine until the whole vine is brown, and then keeping it in sunlight (other vegetables in the dark), before storing?

    For those winter gardeners out there, could we do TWO winters with garlic, and simply pull out a head of garlic from the ground as needed? —Christina

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    I know of at least a couple of garlic growers in Washington state. Not sure whether they do much shipping to other states or not.

  • Sheila
    Sheila Posts: 108 ✭✭✭

    @heirlooms777 When the scapes show up – you’ll want to remove them to promote larger bulbs. They are easy to snap off as long as they haven’t been left so long they get woody. Great in stir-fry!

    As harvest time approaches you'll want to allow the soil to dry down a little. Don't water your garlic for about two weeks just prior to harvest. You’ll want to harvest when there are still four or five strong green leaves on the stalk. Be gentle digging up the garlic - brush off any clumps of dirt and hang or lay out on screens in an area with good ventilation to dry. Try to avoid bruising the garlic as that just shortens the holding time for them. Once the stalks and roots are dry I usually clip the stalk to about 3/4"-1" above the bulb and trim the roots close to the bulb.

    If you leave the garlic in the ground – you will need to mark where it is if you want to dig it up as the stalk dries and then either gets blown away or falls over and decomposes. The bulbs of the garlic in the ground will sprout but because they are so closely spaced they will not produce good heads of garlic – they will get steadily smaller the more cramped they are. This is fine if you want to just use the greens like chives but not great if you are trying to grow heads. Hop this helps! 

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Sheila @heirlooms777 When you remove the scapes, don't compost them. Chop them into small pieces and use in stir fry or other recipes that want a hint of garlic flavor.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,640 admin

    I made garlic scape relish a few years ago. Yummy!

    I might try dehydrating the scapes this year.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Sheila It's definitely best to harvest all the garlic, separate the heads into cloves, and replant single cloves instead of whole heads. That way you won't have cramped space limiting the size of the cloves and heads.

    I agree that you want to reduce watering as you approach garlic harvest. This also applies to bulbing onions.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,156 ✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy The canning garlic has made my "to do" list! Thanks!!

    I also ant to try some black garlic--can't wait!!

  • Owl
    Owl Posts: 346 ✭✭✭

    What a terrific idea! I experimented this summer with growing turmeric and a purple variety of ginger. I grow a bunch of ginger because I use it in my kombucha. I’ve been trying to figure out how to preserve these root crops, including horseradish so this is definitely something to explore. I did want to say though, we bought a second hand refrigerator that’s made to convert by flipping a switch to a freezer. Since I don’t need the fridge yet (we bought it to cure meats) I’ve been using it for a root cellar. In Alabama, I’ve never had one but I’m thinking that any old fridge can be set for a warmer than normal temperature and used for that purpose. It keeps my potatoes, onions, garlic and such wonderfully fresh indefinitely. Now if I could just figure out somewhere to put it!