How long does garlic last on the counter?
In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “How long does garlic last on the counter?”. We will also discuss answers to other related questions like what affects the shelf life of garlic, how to store garlic to increase its shelf life and how to tell if garlic has gone bad and what happens if you eat bad garlic.
How long does garlic last on the counter?
On the counter, the whole bulb of garlic can be kept for 1 or 2 months at 20–30 °C) . But once the bulb is broken into individual cloves, you can expect the quality of your garlic to decrease rather quickly, since the bulbs eventually lose their firmness and become spongy and discolored due to water loss . Individual unpeeled garlic cloves can last for 7-10 days on the counter (1,2,7).
Freshly chopped garlic or a prepared jar of chopped garlic should not be kept on the counter for longer as it is more prone to spoilage (2,3).
What affects the shelf life of garlic?
One crucial factor that affects garlic’s shelf life is storage conditions. Garlic should be kept in a cool and dry environment with low humidity levels (2).
Exposure to heat, moisture, or direct sunlight can accelerate sprouting and promote the growth of mold or bacteria, reducing its shelf life. The freshness of the garlic at the time of purchase also plays a role, as damaged or bruised cloves are more prone to spoilage (4,5).
Moreover, proper ventilation is essential to prevent the build-up of moisture and the subsequent onset of rot (5).
How to store garlic to increase its shelf life?
The best way to store garlic is to store it as a whole in an open container. This container should be placed at a somewhat cool temperature away from the heat where there is accurate air circulation. It is recommended not to store garlic in the refrigerator, as the refrigeration temperature causes the garlic to sprout (1,2).
Try to store garlic as a whole because when one of the cloves of garlic is taken out, its shelf life starts decreasing.
Short term storage
For short-term garlic storage, pack the garlic in a brown paper bag instead of a plastic bag to avoid the chances of humidity. This will help to keep the taste and freshness of garlic for up to 4 to 6 months (7).
If you are going to refrigerate an individual unpeeled clove of garlic, it can be stored for 10 days. For peeled garlic cloves, store them in a plastic bag for up to 1 to 2 days (2).
Long term storage
For long-term storage of garlic, you can go for freezing them. Unpeeled, whole garlic (Garlic bulb as a whole) can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 year (6).
If you want to store peeled and chopped garlic, pack it in the freezer bag and store it in the freezer for up to 1 year.
Can garlic go bad?
Yes, garlic can go bad. Garlic may degrade and become unfit for ingestion over time. As we mentioned before, exposure to moisture, heat, or high humidity can lead to the growth of mold or bacteria, causing the garlic to rot.
How to tell if garlic has gone bad?
To tell if garlic has gone bad you can check the tips that we separated for you next. Since fresh garlic has a characteristic smell and taste, but once it is spoiled or rotten, you can know this by (7,8):
Spots on the surface
If the garlic has gone bad, it will develop some brown spots on the surface of its cloves. Also, the color at this stage will be changed from a particular off-white to a yellowish tan.
When the garlic goes bad, there is some expansion of green roots in the center of the garlic cloves. These roots are actually the sprouts that taste bitter. These sprouts should be removed from the center of the cloves but they leave a milder flavor behind.
The best way to determine if the garlic has gone bad or not is a squeeze test. On squeezing, if the head gets soft or malleable due to pressure, then this is the clear indication of the fact the garlic has gone bad.
What can happen if you eat bad garlic?
Consumption of bad garlic can cause you to be the victim of botulism. Chances of foodborne botulism are extremely rare but can be serious and potentially fatal.
Bacteria that cause botulism, known as Clostridium botulinum, normally form inactive spores that can be found in low-acid vegetables like garlic.
Certain conditions like low acidity, lack of oxygen, moisture, and temperature can cause these spores to become active and cause the development of botulism (9). These conditions of low acidity might be provided by garlic, if they are not stored properly, causing the toxic spores to become active.
The disease, botulism, affects the nerves connected to the eyes, mouth, face, and throat. Symptoms of botulism caused by improperly stored garlic include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, double vision, difficulty in swallowing, and difficulty in breathing (10).
These symptoms can be fatal. So, if you consume spoiled garlic and experience any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately.
In this brief guide, we answered the question “How long does garlic last on the counter?”. We also discussed answers to other related questions like what affects the shelf life of garlic, how to store garlic to increase its shelf life and how to tell if garlic has gone bad and what happens if you eat bad garlic.
1. Bahnasawy, A.H., Dabee, S.A. Technological Studies on Garlic Storage. 2006.
2. The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks. Agricultural Research Service Agriculture, Handbook Number 66, 2016.
3. Torun, M., Ozdemir, F. Milk protein and zein coatings over peeled garlic cloves to extend their shelf life. Scientia Horticulturae, 2022, 291, 3.
4. Cantwell, M., et al. Heat treatment control sprouting and rooting of garlic cloves. Postharvest Biology and Technology, 2003, 30(1):57-65
5. Qiu Y, Zhou Y, Chang Y, et al. The Effects of Ventilation, Humidity, and Temperature on Bacterial Growth and Bacterial Genera Distribution. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(22).
6. Silva, C.L.M. Home Freezing of Fruits and Vegetables. In book: Frozen food science and technology, 2008.
7. Purwanto, Y.A. Effects of Temperature on The Quality of Garlic (Allium sativum L) cv. Lumbu Kuning During Storage. IOP Conference Series Earth and Environmental Science, 2019, 309(1):012004.
8. Snyder, A.B, Worobo, R.W. Fungal Spoilage in Food Processing. Journal of Food Protection, 2018, 81, 6, 1035-1040;
9. Gibbs, P. (2007). Clostridium botulinum and Botulism. In: Ho, P., Vieira, M.M.C. (eds) Case Studies in Food Safety and Environmental Health. Integrating Safety and Environmental Knowledge Into Food Studies towards European Sustainable Development, vol 6. Springer, Boston, MA, 29-32.
10. Clostridium botulinum & Botulism. USDA, 2013.