The amount of time garlic will last depends on a number of factors including the exact garlic variety, its age and how it was handled during harvesting. Start by buying good garlic in the first place – it should be firm with plenty of dry papery covering and no sprouting.
If your garlic seems to be going off too soon after buying, consider going to a different store. The difference in shelf life between bulbs bought in different places can be surprising.
You can increase the life of your garlic by storing it properly.
How Not to Store Garlic
Important: Never store raw garlic in oil – this can lead to botulism and possible death. See the warnings page for more information.
Garlic heads and cloves should also not be stored in your kitchen fridge. If garlic is refrigerated then it is likely to go soft and mouldy. The same problem is likely to occur if garlic is stored in a sealed plastic container.
How to Store Garlic Properly
Garlic needs to be stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
Garlic also needs to “breathe” and allowing the correct air circulation will extend its shelf life. An excellent way to store garlic is in a special garlic keeper. These are designed with holes to allow the air to circulate and also have the advantage of looking good in the kitchen. Personally I use a small one of these that can hold about three bulbs. I don’t store more than that at any one time.
Some people like to store their garlic by freezing it. Personally I’ve never seen the point when fresh garlic is available to buy so easily.
If garlic begins to sprout or go soft then it is past its prime. Throw it out.