rescue operation: freezing stored garlic, onions

onions and garlic sprouting

REACHING INTO THE NET BAG of onions in my barn this morning, I got a little wakeup call—from a few onions that were themselves waking up. Uh-oh. A quick check of the garlic revealed a couple of restless heads as well. An extra-warm winter has meant an extra-warm storage space, so it’s time to intervene before all is lost. I’m peeling and freezing whole garlic cloves and chopped onions today to get me the rest of the way into the next harvest. It’s simple:

onions chopped to freeze

I slice or chop onions and put them in freezer bags or—to avoid plastic—freezer jars. Freezing the amount you typically use for a recipe in one container rather than a giant portion is easier when it comes time to use the produce.

With the onion pieces and with whole, peeled cloves of garlic, I toss them lightly in a very small amount of olive oil first, hoping to reduce any freezer burn. By freezing about half my cloves each year I never buy garlic but have my own all 12 months. There are several tactics for doing this.

cloves of garlic to freeze

Freezing a portion of your harvest can and should be done at the time the crops are dug and cured, of course—and they’ll be firmer and fresher then (though garlic can be harder to peel when it’s at its peak concentration of oils).  But if some of what you have on hand right now isn’t keeping well, hurry and rescue it by freezing—or making a big batch of stock or soup or something else. With the onions, the choice of rescue-remedy recipe is a no-brainer (and freezes beautifully itself):

One more thing: Be sure to check on other foodstuffs—stored vegetables such as potatoes, winter squash–and overwintering ornamental plants in the garage, basement, coldframe or elsewhere as well right about now. Substantially longer days (and in my location, the unseasonably warm weather) may mean some stored tropicals or not-quite-hardy trees and shrubs want a bit of water or other care to make it the rest of the way till freedom time, or that some tubers and such might be showing signs of decline.

  1. Judi says:

    I had tof reeze all my garlic as it didn’t want to keep either,,,but I ran all my onions througfh my dehydrator….retained the fresh picked flavore and no spouting,,,onions not only dehydrate well but reconsitiute to a wonderful onion taste,,,I did scallions, reds and sweets too. rings and chopped. chives came our good too….I have nor had good luck with Garlic dehydrated and it molded….so I freeze all now..

  2. Rosemeri says:

    I dehydrate my onions and then grind them to powder. Easy to store and use and great making my own seasoning mixes. I haven’t tried this with my garlic yet but it should be just as easy. I usually use up all my garlic while it’s fresh. I guess that means that I’m not planting enough.

  3. Sarah says:

    I wish I had room in my freezer for this! It’s currently full of beekeeping equipment. It’s inspiring to hear that others are dehydrating their onions. Perhaps a bigger freezer and more efficient dehydrator are in order for me. Do you have any favorite varieties other than ‘Copra,’ Margaret? Thanks for an informative post!

    1. Margaret says:

      Beekeeping equipment in the freezer! That’s a new one on me, Sarah. I love ‘Ailsa Craig’ onions (larger, milder, but not for long storage) and I am thinking of tryoing some larger storage onions (‘Copra’ is medium size) like ‘Patterson’ or ‘Cortland’ maybe. Johnny’s Selected Seed has a good list and sells seed and also seedlings of its most popular ones if you prefer.

  4. Bridget Coyle says:

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this freezing tip or not, so here goes. Once you mince or finely chop your onions, garlice or herbs, and have added the oil or water, whicever you using, you can portion them out (i.e., teaspoon or tablespoon or whatever measurement you like) and then put them in ice cube trays until frozen. Then pop them out and put them in freezer bags (or jars) to store. This even works with measurements going into the measuring cup ranges. It’s very convenient.

  5. Jayne says:

    Great idea, as I also jut noticed that the garlic is beginning to brown and shrivel – some varieties faster than others! I will try it! Thank you!!!

  6. Ann says:

    I’m going to look into growing more vegetables this year, but our Texas summers are brutal. It would be nice not to have to use the stale old garlic that you find in the stores.

  7. stace says:

    some really great ideas to pro-long the life of your onions and garilc, I usualy do what Bridget Coyle had suggested i frezze mine down into ice cube trays that way its easy to get when you need them.

  8. Deborah Banks says:

    Sarah, I had to check out your blog after your mention of beekeeping equipment in the freezer. What a wonderful high-energy description of projects! I was disappointed to reach the end of the posts in January. Thanks for the inspiration! We have 16 chickens here but have yet to jump into the scary world of beekeeping.

  9. Tricia says:

    We bought way, way, way more garlic than we could plant last fall (it’s our first time growing it), so I froze some cloves whole (didn’t peel them — does that matter?), roasted several whole cloves in olive oil then squeezed out the pulp and also made some garlic butter. The roasted cloves and oil are particularly good in hummus. And I’ve found the unpeeled cloves squeeze out of the garlic press perfectly!

    Maybe next year we’ll have enough of our own to last through the year!

  10. Karen says:

    This is terrific advice, Margaret….thanks! I’ve gone back and read through all of your growing/storing garlic posts this afternoon.

    One question: how much garlic do you plant to get yourself through the year?

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Karen. I do 75 heads, which gives me enough for “seed” and eating. I think it’s very variable but when I use garlic, I use a lot in a dish, and I make my whole year’s worth of pasta sauce using my own garlic and tomatoes, so I have to consider that usage, too, in the calculations. The variety I grow (‘German Extra Hardy’) only have about 5 big cloves per head, so to get 75 cloves to plant I need to figure that 15 heads or more go back into the ground of the 75, if that makes sense.

  11. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the suggestions, Margaret! I’m trying ‘Copra’ this winter, as well as ‘Yellow Granex’, ‘Red Bull’, and ‘Red Amposta’. Last year’s ‘Yellow Granex’ and Stockton red and yellow were ready to harvest by the middle of June and started sprouting and going soft sometime in the fall. I’ll have to give ‘Ailsa Craig’ a try, though I’m a bit preoccupied with growing onions that will last a long time; there’s nothing quite as satisfying as making a quick trip to the cellar to pick up onions for dinner!

  12. Sarah says:

    Deborah, thanks for checking out my blog. Wow, 16 chickens! I can technically only have 3 in my area, and will have to see how the neighbors take to those. Beekeeping is much less scary than you might think. I’ve yet to be stung, and I can walk right up to the hive and watch the comings and goings.

  13. Brenda says:

    I always dehydrate my onions, which works really well. I tried freezing them one year, but found that everything in my freezer ended up tasting like onions. What did I do wrong? Is there a way to keep the taste from migrating? Veggies with an onion taste are not bad, but raspberry sorbet with an onion aftertaste is not at all good.

    1. Margaret says:

      I haven’t dehydrated things in years, Brenda, but you are reminding me of how good a tactic it can be. I haven’t had migrating flavor from the onions or garlic but I use sealed canning jars or double freezer bags. (And yes, that unintended sorbet variation sounds AWFUL!)

      Hi, Robin. The ‘Copra’ are really something, and the latest offspring from that breeding (I think it’s the same developer), called ‘Cortland’, is supposed to be even better.

  14. Robin says:

    I checked my onions yesterday. The Copra are still firm and show no signs of sprouting. Ring Master is soft, sprouting and stinky. Ooops, should have already used them.

  15. Alex says:

    Love this post! Love garlic, love storing, love it all.

    I can’t wait to start growing herbs and veggies and having some leftovers to enjoy through next winter. I’m blogging with humor about my new life as a vegetable container gardener in Charlotte, NC. Totally new to gardening, so this should be fun. :-)

    Hope you’ll check it out and leave advice when you can.

    1. Margaret says:

      You are so nice to come say hello, Alex, and I will head over to your place, too. :) You have chosen the very best thing to spend your time doing, promise. Welcome to gardening!

  16. Julia Hofley says:

    Thanks for the reminder Margaret!
    I just ran out into our garage here in Motown and watered my rose standards with Phygellius under-plantings in large pots. There was bud break on one of the roses…it was in the 50’s yesterday. Definitely dry…

  17. JoAnn says:

    I make a super-intense garlic oil by roasting peeled cloves in a couple of inches of olive oil (enough to cover them throughout 30 mins of ~300-degree cooking) til soft and oh-so-fragrant. I bottle the oil and the cloves separately. Zillions of uses.

  18. Sheryl says:

    I’ve never dehydrated onions-do you use a dehydrator or can you dehydrate them on racks in the oven-what’s the time frame?

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  20. Terryk says:

    I did not get my extra German Extra Hardy garlic in the garden last fall. Can I plant it this year for 2012 harvest? They still seem to be nice and firm.

    1. Margaret says:

      I don’t know what will happen, Terry — they need a winter (like flower bulbs) so I doubt they will head up/produce big bulbs (unless you had them stored in a fridge or something all winter?). Can’t hurt to try, but I am doubtful of good results.

  21. Terryk says:

    Oh shoot! They have been in an unheated room but it does have windows and combine that with the warmth of this winter I wonder if I will have luck.

    Of course it could not hurt to try, it is the scapes I will miss too.

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