I know what you’re thinking. How is homegrown garlic going to save the planet?

The short answer is it’s not, but it allows me to confront the issue of over-packaging and share my passion for home gardening.

A Tragedy in Garlic

Ridiculously over-packaged garlic cloves.

Here’s what got me started on garlic: I was grocery shopping with my wife when these peeled and individually vacuum sealed garlic cloves from Global Farms caught my eye.

I’m not even sure where to begin with this utter masterpiece of over-packaging. The glaring issue is the over-use of plastic, but then there’s the principle of the matter.

Garlic comes naturally wrapped and can store for up to a year. That means somebody took the time to separate each garlic bulb into cloves, individually peel each clove and then vacuum sealed it pack together in plastic. That’s like all the king’s horses and all the king’s men purposely pushing Humpty Dumpty off the wall and then duct-taping him back together. I can’t think of a bigger waste of time and resources.

But it doesn’t end there. They’ve also taken the liberty of putting a “best if used by” date on each package, which, at best, is barely over a month away for these particular packages. So not only have these cloves been over-handled, over-packaged, shipped and stored in a doorless refrigerator that’s coughing away energy 24 hours a day, now they apparently won’t store nearly as long as they would have if they were left untouched!

I reached out to Global Farms to see if they’d like to comment on this product, but have yet to receive a response.

I can’t even begin to calculate the carbon footprint of this product. Before I really dive off the deep end, let’s focus on an alternative method of handling garlic.

How to grow your own garlic

Find organic unpackaged garlic at a grocery store, market or gardening center. I visited Wells Medina Nursery and spoke to the resident garlic-guru, Jim Fox. Fox has been gardening for more than 50 years and working at Wells Medina for more than 20 — he has an incredible amount of horticultural knowledge. Here are his garlic growing tips:

Wells Medina Nursery carries around 15 varieties of garlic in late September and October.
  • Late October is the ideal time to plant garlic cloves. Each clove will produce a bulb containing 6 to 25 cloves, depending on the variety.
  • Plant in a sunny spot with rich, well-drained soil. Add planting compost to enrich soil if needed.
  • Plant cloves 6-9 inches apart. Press into soil about 2 inches.
  • Garlic does not like competition, so keep the area clear of weeds. Use a light mulch (could be a layer of compost, fallen leaves, evergreen boughs – whatever is handy) to suppress weeds and protect the cloves from hard frosts.
  • Water as needed (here’s a tip for that) from early spring into summer.

Here’s how that looks:

Harvesting and storing

In late winter/early spring the cloves will sprout and begin to form bulbs underground. Let the stalks grow until late July or early September, depending on the variety. Once the bottom set of leaves have dried out, the bulb can be harvested and cured.

To cure, hang bulbs by the stalk in a dry, dark area (the garage or shed works great) for 4-6 weeks. Then, cut the stalk one inch above the bulb. If there is still moisture in the stalk, continue to cure. If not, the bulb is cured.

Now break the bulb into individual cloves, peel each clove, vacuum seal them into packages of five, double-seal in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Just kidding. See how crazy that is now?

Actually, store the cured bulbs in onion netting, crate or – let’s be honest – laying around loosely in a dark, airy place at around 55-65 degrees. A pantry works great. Bulbs can store like this for 3 months to a year, depending on the variety. According to Global Farms, fresh garlic can be left on the kitchen counter without worry from May to August.

Now here’s the best part, take a clove or two from each bulb and plant it back in the ground to begin the cycle again. Zero waste garlic, just like that.

Here’s the point

Gardening might not be your thing, but knowing how to grow and store food does offer some valuable insights. All garlic needs to store is a dark corner of the pantry — it’s a gift from Mother Nature. I don’t mean to harp on Global Farms, they also have certified organic products that I would love to try, but they went out of their way to over-manufacture and over-package this product into an environmental nightmare. And for what? So consumers can spend less time peeling garlic? I will let you know when I get an answer from them.

In the meantime, watch this:

A trick to peeling garlic cloves from Food Wishes. Video from YouTube.

*Sam Wigness was an employee of Wells Medina Nursery from 2018-2019.