What Is A Garlic Clove? How To Use It, Grow It And Store It

By Paul Smart •  Updated: 01/05/22 •  11 min read

What Is A Garlic Clove? Garlic is one of the most popular spices and it is widely used in dishes all over the world. But if you haven’t used a garlic clove what is exactly is it.

A garlic clove is a segment that makes up a garlic bulb. Within a garlic bulb typically there are 10 to 12 segments in most types that are sold at the supermarket. Most recipes that you come across in cooking books or the internet tend to talk in terms of cloves of garlic. A picture of a bunch of cloves with a bulb is shown in the image below.

Grocery stores tend to sell garlic as bulbs rather than individual clothes in the fresh produce aisle. Most types of garlic that are purchased have a papery outer layer on the bulb itself. However, when the bulb is divided into individual cloves you will also find that each clove also has a papery skin that needs to be peeled before the garlic clove can be used.

How To Peel And Prepare A Garlic Clove Fast?

Peeling a clove can be extremely fiddly because the outer paper light is very thin and can sometimes be difficult to move so how do you do this quickly. The easiest way is just to remove the ends of the clove and then use a knife to first slit down the side of the glove and then use the edge of the knife to lift and peel the papery layer away from the bulb.

Most recipes then call for the garlic to be diced finally before being added to the dish. This can be done using a knife which can be quite tedious or it is much faster to use a garlic press that will crush several cloves in a matter of seconds. If you are doing a lot of cooking purchasing a garlic press is well worth it to see the latest price on Amazon click here.

Garlic presses can also be used to crush unpeeled cloves, however, after one use the mesh of the garlic press will be blocked and require cleaning. However, this is a handy little trick if you are in a hurry only need one or two cloves. 

What Is Best Mince Garlic, Powder Garlic, Or Fresh Garlic? 

However, if you find that you really don’t like peeling garlic there are a couple of alternatives that can be used. It can also be purchased as powdered garlic or minced garlic which is located in the spice or cooking aisle. These forms of garlic can also be used to substitute for fresh garlic in recipes and there are some upsides and downsides to using them.

Minced Garlic

Minced garlic is one of the most common ways to purchase garlic as it is extremely convenient for cooking because the garlic is already diced peeled and ready to use. An unopened jar can be stored in your pantry for literally months or even years ready to use. And an open jar can also be stored for several months in the refrigerator. The only downside is that minced garlic is not quite as tasty as fresh can you peel garlic. 

One teaspoon of Mince Garlic = 1 Clove

Powdered Garlic

Powdered garlic, which you can also find in the spice aisle is also a relatively convenient way of adding garlic to your dishes. Like mince garlic it can be stored in your spice rack for months ready to use at any stage and of course does not require any peeling cutting or crushing of garlic cloves. However, of the three forms of garlic mentioned this one is the least flavorsome.

1/8 teaspoon of Mince Garlic = 1 clove

Fresh Garlic

Fresh garlic as mentioned above has by far the best flavor of any of the forms of garlic unsurprisingly, however, it is also one of the most time-consuming to prepare. However, the garlic cloves have an extremely long shelf life compared to many other forms of fresh produce so you can keep them in your kitchen for several months.

And unlike other fresh produce, the garlic will not rot but rather it will start to produce green shoots out of the top of the Garlic. However, if it’s in the early stages of grow this the garlic can still be used in your cooking without a problem. 

If the growth is relatively advanced you can also take this garlic and plant it into your garden to produce new garlic cloves. To read more about this see the later sections of this article. 

Are There Different Types Of Garlic?

It might surprise you to learn that there is a huge range of different garlic varieties available to grow and purchase, though most major grocery stores only offer one or two common varieties. So what are the different types of garlic?

Garlic varieties can generally be divided up into two major categories; hardneck and softneck. The softneck varieties are sold commercially in grocery stores. The main reason for this is that have a much longer shelf life than hardneck varieties. Soft neck varieties can last up to 12 months in storage while hardneck varieties only last about six months.

The main difference between hardneck and softneck is the rigidity of the storks that grow through the center of the garlic bulb. Hardneck varieties have a rigid stem whereas are soft neck varieties remain flexible when the garlic bulbs are mature.

The advantage of hardneck garlic varieties is that they have a much stronger flavor than the softneck varieties which you can get at the supermarket. 

Is Garlic Easy To Grow

You may ask whether it is easy to grow your own garlic at home and the answer is yes it is. Garlic is among the easiest vegetables to grow in the garden because there is virtually no maintenance required.

The only thing that is really important is the timing of the planting which in relatively mild climates that don’t have major snowfalls is generally quite forgiving. However, in regions with cold climates, you need to be a little bit more precise about not planting dates to get a good outcome.

However, if you do get your garlic right it is quite possible to grow enough garlic for you to supply yourself for the entire year. I personally do not buy garlic anymore as I can grow enough to store for the entire year.

Can You Grow Garlic From Store-Bought Bulbs?

As mentioned earlier in the article store-bought garlic in most cases will shoot over time so it is possible to grow garlic from store-bought bulbs. However, the trials that I have seen completed by well-known gardeners such as Charles Dowding have indicated that the bulbs that are purchased from garden centers will produce a fast superior quality and yield over time.

To see the results of Charles Dowding’s garlic trial watch the video below.

If you are considering trying to grow your own garlic apply I would personally recommend spending the money purchasing garlic from the garden store as you can replant garlic bulbs year on year. This means that you only have to purchase the garlic once.

How To Grow Garlic At Home

As mentioned above garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow because it really only requires you to plant the cloves at the correct time of year and then harvest them 6 months later.  

To produce your own garlic cloves you need to plant them in autumn. The reason for that is for the garlic to produce individual cloves it needs a period of cold weather which allows the bulb to divide into individual cloves in a process called vernalization. If the division of the bulbs does not occur it is impossible to split the bulbs into cloves to plant for the following year.

In regions where winters are cold and the ground freezes the timing of the planting is more critical. Garlic needs to be planted early enough to allow it to develop some roots and become established before the ground freezes, however, it needs to be not too early that allows the top growth to develop too much.

The reason for this is that the top growth will be destroyed by cold weather which is not a problem if it only happens once, however, if the garlic has the opportunity to regrow and then has the top growth destroyed for a second time it can affect the yield that you achieve.

As a general rule, it is best to plant the garlic 2 to 3 weeks after the first frost occurs which is usually before the ground begins to freeze. If it is planted at this stage the garlic will survive extreme temperatures which are as low as -30F (-35C)

Planting Garlic In The Ground 

To plant garlic in the ground start by dividing your bulb into cloves. Within the bulb, you’ll find that the cloves vary in size from quite thin to quite fat. Select only the largest bulbs to plant as cloves that are extremely thin will not produce a decent bulb when placed in the ground.

Once the bulbs have been selected for planting place them into the ground at a depth of an inch with the pointy end pointing upward at a spacing of approximately 10 inches. In terms of location, the cloves should be planted in a sunny location that gets 6 to 8 hours of sun per day.

It is also important to avoid locations that remain wet for extended periods as there is a risk that the bulbs will rot. The soil should ideally be rich moist and free draining in order to allow plants to develop over time. To reduce the volume of weeds it is also advisable to apply a layer of mulch that is 2 to 4 inches thick. 

Caring For Garlic Plants And Harvesting

Once the garlic plants are in the ground there is very little maintenance required apart from maintaining a weed-free space around the bulbs. 

Typically what you will see is that the cloves will produce a green shoot in early spring that will develop in size until late spring or early summer. At this stage, you can expect to see their foliage start to yellow and in some cases fold over itself. This is an indication that the garlic is ready to harvest.

When removing the bulbs from the ground it is advisable to place a trowel underneath the bulb and lift it gently out of the ground rather than tugging on the stems which can sometimes break.

Once the bulbs are out of the ground the excess soil should be removed before laying the bulbs out and allowing them to dry for a week or two.

Once they are dry it is advisable to select 6 or 8 of the largest bulbs for growing next year’s crop. They should be put aside in a cool dark location to ensure that you don’t accidentally eat them and have to rebuy the garlic the following year.

How To Store And Braid Garlic

To maximize the shelflife of garlic bulbs it is important to store them in a cool dark well-ventilated area to reduce the chances of them forming mold or sprouting too early. The ideal container to store garlic in is a mesh bag or alternatively, you can also braid them onto a string and hang them up somewhere.

It is common for people to think that braiding garlic is like braiding hair however there is a much simpler and easier way to braid garlic onto a string. Start by tying one end of a piece of string to a rafter and then tie a garlic bulb to the other end.

The next step is to find two similar-sized garlic bulbs and tie them together using the dried stems. When doing this the bulbs should end up having a section of stem that is approximately 2 inches long between the bulbs.

Once this is done wind the bulbs around the central stem once or twice and then push them down until they come in contact with the first bulb on the end of the string. These steps can then be repeated until to build up your string of garlic.

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Garlic clove Vs Bulb: Are They The Same Thing?

Can You Plant Garlic In The Spring?

Garlic Chives vs Chives: What is the Difference?

How Many Garlic Bulbs Can You Grow From One Bulb?

Paul Smart