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Kitchen talk: What is the proper way to store garlic?

Do you store garlic bulbs on the kitchen counter or in the refrigerator or pantry? You might want to rethink that.

If you store them correctly, you can keep the cloves fresh and crisp for years, says Ron Stidmon, who co-owns Enon Valley Garlic in Enon Valley, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Rosemary.

Q: What is the proper way to store garlic?

A: Traditionally, garlic is stored in a cellar along with the potatoes and onions. But it also can be placed in a brown paper bag and stored in a basement that is cool and dark with relatively high humidity.

Cool does not mean freezing, and it is important that the basement is unheated. The air should not be stagnant because when there is movement of air, mold won’t settle on the garlic.

Keeping that in mind, the worst places to store the bulbs are on the kitchen counter or in a refrigerator or pantry. The counter space near the stove is too warm. The refrigerator is not ideal because it does not have any air movement, and the humidity is too low. Garlic stored in a pantry or closet is all right for a short period of time but not for the long haul. It will shrivel because the air is dry, and there is no ventilation.

If you don’t have a basement, place the bulbs in a good plastic box and put it in the dirt. The soil has a good temperature that will help to keep the bulbs fresh.

Q: Should I discard any garlic that has sprouted?

A: A garlic with a sprout does not mean that it has gone bad. In fact, it’s OK to eat garlic that has a sprout because a young one is nutritious, even though it can be a little bitter. But do consume the garlic soon because as a sprout grows, the juice is transferred from the bulb to the green part. As a result the garlic will start turning brown and shrivel.

Q: What about long-term storage?

A: One way to keep garlic fresh for years is to store the cloves in a jar along with vinegar. Start by removing the wrapper. Then place the cloves in a 4-quart jar along with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Top the jar with filtered or bottled water, and place it in the refrigerator. This will preserve and not pickle the garlic and also keep it nice and crisp.

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