I purchased a head of garlic and I have 2/3's of it left over, I am storing it in the fridge in a ceramic covered dish (made specifically for garlic :) a gift from my mother) and I would like to know how long I can continue to expect fresh flavor from it. What would the garlic look like if it had indeed spoiled?
Garlic will spoil faster in the fridge actually. I don't know how long it will last in the fridge, but I understand that it lasts longer if you leave it in a cool, dark, dry storage. I believe one reason is that your fridge is generally too humid. In my experience, garlic kept in the fridge is also more likely to develop mould (goes soft, and dark discolouration).
I keep mine in a ceramic thing in one of my cupboards. It lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the garlic (probably how long it sat before getting to my kitchen). If you store it like that, garlic that goes "bad" will usually start to sprout (green shoots, will come through the top.
Garlic will hold amazingly well for a couple of months. I have one bulb without any protection whatsoever, although it's out of direct sunlight.
The cloves will 'go' one by one. Some will start to sprout. I guess this depends on the environment. Others will dry. Others will rot (black mold, it will turn to dust).
Discard the rotten ones and cut away the dry parts. But you can use the sprouted ones, just take the germ out.
At any rate, just buy the least amount you'll use (I buy one bulb at a time).
I'm reading up on this topic, this is the fourth web page I've read. According to the other sites:
Everything so far has said store in:
- cool (60F/15C), warmer will make it sprout or go bad faster
- out of sunlight
- breathable (so not in plastic, not sealed)
How long it will last on the shelf depends on what condition it's in:
- Whole bulb will store for up to half a year.
- Unpeeled clove will store for 10 days to a month.
- Peeled clove will last for a few days to a week in the fridge.
- Peeled and chopped garlic will last for a few days in the fridge.
Brown spots mean the garlic is going bad.
Yellow/tan means it's starting to go bad. It will taste hotter at this stage.
Most sources said storing garlic in the fridge will make it sprout faster.
If you slice the clove in half and it's starting to sprout, discard the sprout part. The remainder is edible but will be milder than pre-sprouting.
One site I read said you can store peeled and/or chopped garlic for a longer period in the fridge (or even longer in the freezer) by putting it in a sealed container, covered in oil. How long, I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a very long time. Using oil to keep air away from the food in a common preservation mechanism, and you can buy minced garlic in oil at the supermarket.
I've stored garlic bulbs in the fridge for up to about 2 months for best results.