Fresh garlic is prone to mold in high-moisture environments such as refrigerators, so bulbs and individual cloves last longer when stored in cool, dry areas. The storage spot should have adequate air circulation. Vegetable bins, pantries, baskets and paper bags are ideal options, while sealed plastic bags reduce freshness.
Bulbs or cloves that already contain sprouts are the least desirable, because they can quickly develop a bitter flavor and it is difficult to guess their stage of maturity. Home gardeners must wash and thoroughly dry fresh garlic to prevent rotting from lingering moisture. Whole, unpeeled garlic bulbs stored at room temperature in an environment between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit can last three to five months, while single, unpeeled cloves are best used within seven to 10 days. In contrast, immature or “new season” garlic comes from early summer harvests and has a short shelf life, lasting roughly one to two weeks when refrigerated.
Freezing is another option for long-time storage and the preferred method for many home growers. A whole, unpeeled bulb typically stays fresh for 10 to 12 months when covered with aluminum foil, plastic freezer wrap or an airtight container. An individual bulb should be peeled and crushed before storing, but be aware that freezing slightly dilutes the garlic’s flavor and texture.