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Why I Am Peeling Garlic This Year

by | Jul 15, 2019 | Food, GARDENING | 8 comments

The scapes are removed from garlic about a month before it is harvested in the garden. This allows the bulbs to size up and start maturing for easy harvest. Scapes are also tasty when cooked on their own or in various dishes.


I am harvesting  a huge bumper crop of garlic this year and coincidentally I watch the episode about garlic on the Netflix documentary “Rotten”. In the episode I find out 90% of the garlic sold in America comes from China. If this isn’t shocking enough imagine this: most of the world’s peeled garlic is done by prisoners in Chinese jails.

The shock for me is not that prisoners are spending their days, and apparently losing their fingernails, peeling garlic. The shock is that people peel garlic in advance. Or rather, people actually buy peeled garlic. Isn’t this just a waste? I usually just peel garlic as I use it.


After drying, garlic is trimmed and stored in a dry place for eating all winter.


So just to be clear I am not in jail and I do not have that much free time on a daily basis but I do have a lot of those piddly little garlic cloves because my garlic self-seeds all over my garden and sometimes I don’t see it right away until  the plants are grown and are ready to pull.  And then in fall and winter I peel as I go – using  it  up in my kitchen. I love garlic, but when the cloves are small you have to peel two or three to get enough to equal one good clove.  So I have to find out if there is some advantage to peeling garlic in advance.


It takes me about an hour to peel about 500 grams of garlic cloves and fill two small jam jars. Corle is on quality control, laying outside on her favourite chair as I peel garlic.


I start peeling the smaller heads and take more time to peel. These ones are small because they had seeded themselves randomly and didn’t get the water they needed. Or they were on the edge  of the bed where they dried out and didn’t size up. I sit and peel garlic for an hour and my hands get really sticky. I fill two small jam jars, put on the lids and and pop them in the fridge. No liquids, no cooking. Just raw garlic peeled in the jars in the fridge. Over the next week I discover both Helpful Husband and myself love this garlic. Scrambling an egg? Press and toss in a garlic clove. Stir frying those endless summer peas or green beans? Melt butter and add garlic. Making a stew? Shake in a few cloves of already peeled garlic. Salad dressing? Always better with freshly crushed garlic.


Freshly picked beans are parboiled and then quickly fried in garlic and butter and topped with toasted pine nuts before serving.


So in just over a week we use up an entire jar of peeled garlic – it is just so convenient and easy to use with no time needed to get out a knife or peel while you cook. So I am an instant  convert and I go to the store to see if this is really a thing and that’s when I see the “California” garlic peeled and sold in loose plastic bags in the fresh food section  beside the basil. If the documentary can be believed this fresh garlic, for sale from California, is some of the prisoner-peeled garlic being shipped to California in shipping containers. 

I love using freshly peeled garlic. I am also a gardener so I refuse to buy prisoner-peeled garlic. I am growing and peeling my own garlic from now on.

If you missed growing garlic yourself this season there is still time to buy locally grown product at the market this summer. And – if you want to feel self-sufficient and independent, put some fresh organic garlic aside and plant it in your garden this fall. It is a small step towards saving money and feeling independent plus it is easy to grow. And honestly it feels better to grow and peel your own product. It stores easily in jars ( no need to add anything or waste more plastic.)  I posted this on instagram and everyone wanted to know how to do it. There are no special instructions: just separate heads of garlic into cloves, peel the cloves and store them in your fridge in a jar. 

I am having so much fun I can hardly contain myself. Seriously.


If garlic over matures in the garden it will start to split apart naturally into cloves . This is why you need to use a fork to lift mature garlic so you get it all instead of leaving bits behind. This bulb has eight individual cloves. At this stage it is easy to split a bulb and peel the cloves with a sharp knife.




PS Do you have questions about Gardening? Join in the conversation on my facebook live event every Monday by clicking right HERE.


 Donna Balzer is the Brand Ambassador for BCGreenhouse Builders and she has two greenhouses in her big backyard.

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  1. That is a great tip – especially since I plan to pursue this peeled garlic approach because the results are so fantastic and it really gives me easy access to garlic as I cook with all this advance prep. Thanks Eric!

  2. Great article, Donna!

    You mentioned your fingers getting all sticky with all the peeling, so I thought I’d share a tip with you that I’ve been using for years…

    Separate the garlic head into cloves, discarding all the paper that comes off easily. Place the heads into a medium-sized ceramic bowl, then invert a similar bowl over top, trapping the cloves inside the two bowls. Then pick up the bowls holding them tight together, and shake as hard as you can for about 30 seconds.

    Most of the cloves will have come right out of the peel, and if any haven’t, just give them another 30 seconds of shaking. No sticky fingers, no garlic smell on your hands, and no garlic gunk under your fingernails!

    Give it a try!

  3. In fact anaerobic bacteria need an environment with no oxygen but I knew you meant that. Thanks for the spring tip too!

  4. Hi Donna,

    makes sense since Clostridium is an anaerobic bacteria so needs the oxygen. Will have to try this. here’s a tip for Spring when your stored garlic is starting to sprout. Mash it with a bit of oil then freeze it in teaspoon amounts. It can be pulled out and used all summer while waiting for your new garlic to mature.

  5. Nice Arlin! That is a compliment coming from such an accomplished writer and video producer. I wish we had loads of money to make a garlic video together!

  6. Donna! Thanks. You have added to my garlic knowledge! Arlin aka The Curious Gardener.

  7. Thanks Elaine – that is a good question. I know garlic has anti-bacterial properties because of it’s level of sulphur. Anyway if I find out more I will tell you. I am just doing it for my own household and we are using it quickly and keeping it in the fridge. When you see it loose in the bags at the store it is not even vacuum sealed and it has already come all the way from China! I did a further search and I think the problem with Botulism is when the air is absent but there is plenty of air the way I store it and of course I keep it in the fridge. Here is a quote I took from an online article:
    “The bacteria spores that cause botulism are called Clostridium botulinum, and they can spread in certain foods when not exposed to oxygen—as is the case when infusing garlic in oil.” from //theolivepress.com/news-blog/be-aware-of-the-risks-of-botulism-with-homemade-garlic-infused-oil#.XS-sWZNKj2I

  8. If pre-peeled how long will it last in the fridge? I know garlic can contain botulism spores so would worry about it outside of it’s sheathing.

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