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Who carries fresh garlic in Boston?

I'm kind of tired of watching my (properly-stored) garlic start sprouting within a few days, and understand that locally-grown (or at least fresher) garlic will not only take longer to start sprouting but will be ever so much tastier.

Even the stuff I buy at Ming's and Hong Kong Market seems to sprout fairly quickly, and I imagine it to be fresher and see faster turnover than places like Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, etc. Any ideas?


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  1. I've gotten garlic as part of my CSA share from Allendale Farm before, you might want to check there in June.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Karl

      I was just going to mention Allandale Farm as well.

    2. Try processing the garlic and freezing in olive oil.

      7 Replies
          1. re: speyerer

            Ooh, I couldn't do that to garlic: I very rarely even use my press anymore. Previously-frozen garlic paste is not something I can make much use of in my kitchen.

            I also believe there are botulism risks associated with storing raw garlic anaerobically in oil, though I'm not certain of that.


            1. re: MC Slim JB

              It is a high-risk for botulism in oil at room temperature; this UC-Davis page has more information:

              As for your question, Dave Purpura of Plato's Harvest sells excellent garlic (and excellent garlic powder, fyi) at several area farmers' markets. I get mine at the Harvard University Farmers Market, which starts in June.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Peeled garlic cloves may be submerged in oil and stored in the freezer for several months. Do not store garlic in oil at room temperature. Garlic-in-oil mixtures stored at room temperature provide perfect conditions for producing botulism toxin (low acidity, no free oxygen in the oil, and warm temperatures).

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Funny you bring this up. In last night's Good Eats episode, Alton Brown was working with artichokes and he said the only ingredient he avoids using when making infused oils is garlic because it can potentially be really dangerous.

          2. I just read about this issue and I gather it's garlic that is stored under refrigeration that sprouts more readily .. kinda like your bulbs coming up in the Spring after a cold winter. Look for places that don't refrigerate their garlic ... talk to the produce guy. Also, storing in the dark helps prevent sprouting.

            7 Replies
            1. re: yumyum

              I don't refrigerate, but store it in a dark, dry, well-ventilated space, as is recommended by most sources I can find (including my food storage bible, "Keeping Foods Fresh").


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I meant supermarkets that refrigerate the bulbs, not at home. Again, talk to your produce guy / gal about how they keep the garlic at your local store.

                I've had fresh local garlic, too, but it's a different animal than the strong biting garlic you are typically looking for for everyday use.

                1. re: yumyum

                  Ah, now I get your point. So, local garlic is kind of wimpy?


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Those I've had are less "hot" than the kind I like to cook with if that makes any sense at all.

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Woah. More than you ever wanted to know about different kinds of garlic.


                2. re: yumyum

                  I can't think of a produce wholesaler who doesn't use cold storage, not to mention refrigerated transport. I have never been that impressed with the quality of garlic from Asian supermarkets, although they do have a lot of turnover. And Market Basket is no better. Probably any of the local options mentioned are better, but I can often (70% of the time) get quality garlic from Italian-oriented produce vendors: Rosebud in Malden, Roberto's in Medford, New Deal in Revere... none of them close to MC and sometimes included in the 70% I end up getting the imported Chinese sleeves from Roberto's because in better shape but I can get decent loose garlic more often at those sources than supermarkets.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Hmmm... curious. The article I read (cannot source it now, dang!) indicated that some purveyors keep it under refrigeration and others don't. I would certainly trust your expertise in this matter tho.

                    Even a supermarket with a high Italian customer base are going to do better than other supermarkets. The garlic I get at the Medford S&S is way better than elsewhere, I've found.

                3. i don't know if locally grown garlic will be tastier or not. it is likely to taste different--northern varieties of garlic, in my experience, are frequently milder than their southern cousins. but there are approximately a gazillion varieties of garlic, so perhaps this isn't generally true.

                    1. MC you should try growing your own. I started doing it just a few years ago and the difference is huge. What I picked last July has lasted me the entire Winter into Spring and I still have a few bulbs left with absolutely no sprouting. It doesn't help you much this year, but if you plant in the Fall you'll be a happy camper next summer. That said, I'm sure the various farmers markets will have it starting in July.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Pegmeister

                        Can't we plant now and harvest this year?

                        1. re: trufflehound

                          No, this is a bulb, like daffodils. You put the single cloves in the ground in the fall, they freeze over the winter, they come up in the spring and in the process they divide and develope new heads. They also send out a flower whech you have to make sure you cut off before it developes seeds or else it will deplete the buld of the plant, Those are edible too. Our plants are up about 10" right now in NW CT. (zone 5).

                          1. re: junescook

                            And it is so worth it!!! I'll never by store bought garlic again. When I plant in the fall, I cover it with hay.

                      2. Completely counter-intuitive, but this time of year I usually have better luck with multiple heads of garlic sold in mesh bags (usually ridiculously cheap) than with loose heads. I'm pretty sure that the bags are Chinese garlic, since I've read (if it's on the internet it must be true, right?) that California garlic still has root hairs attached, but Chinese garlic is shaved. Anyway, The stuff in the bags doesn't tend to sprout as much, but can get a bit dried out toward the end.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bear

                          To corroborate your CA garlic vs. Chinese garlic statement:
                          During a TV gardening program I watch the host visited a garlic farm in Gilroy CA and the farmer explained that garlic grown in Gilroy had roots and the imported garlic did not.

                          FWIW... we buy garlic at Connors farm (in season) and Tendercrop and only rarely have a sprouting issue... and we buy a lot of garlic.

                        2. Market Basket Somerville seems to have relatively fresh garlic. I don't like a lot of the garlic/onions type produce at HK Market... it always seems old

                          1. I always pick up a supply at Russo's, whether I need it or not (then I chop the excess and keep it in a jar in oil in the refrigerator before it sprouts). The sheer quantity they put out makes it likely you'll find some unsprouted firm heads, which I definitely can't say for my local places, Roche Bros. and Sudbury Farms. Haymarket, unsurprisingly, is sprout central every time I've surveyed their selection - they might as well throw in gravel and a mini-planter.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: nsenada

                              Storing garlic in oil in the fridge is an invitation to botulism which grows anaerobically (the oil seals the garlic off from oxygen). If you MUST do it, add enough vinegar to lower the pH to a level at which botulism will not grow, but this willalter the flavor.

                              1. re: cpingenot

                                I understand that refrigeration of garlic stored in oil retards the growth of botulism to the point where it's safe enough to use for about three weeks, but the very notion of it makes me nervous. Home acidulation is purportedly not reliable, either, though I'd avoid it for the flavor changes you cite anyway.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  ugh, i feel your pain. there is definitely NEVER fresh garlic at the whole foods on westland ave. which drives me absolutely nuts. i always pick through it looking for a good head but even if looks good from the outside, it always has brown spots and sprouts immediately. shaw's is pretty crappy too. i've had better luck at russo's and always buy a couple heads when it's at the farmers market. yes, the local garlic is smaller and has a more subtle taste but it's delicious nonetheless. i usually just add more cloves than called for to make up for its mildness. another reason why i can't wait for the farmer's market to begin!

                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                    I also never use garlic more than a few minutes after chopping/slicing. After that it tastes terrible.

                              2. Bear in mind that you plant your garlic in the fall, before the ground freezes, mulching heavily so the ground doesn't freeze and thaw during the winter. Ours here in Litchfield County in CT is up now, but it is not ready to harvest untill the tops start to die back, usually in late July or in August. So then you dry it and it will stay really good for maybe six months. The point I'm making is that locally grown garlic is out of season here in New England and it all is starting to sprout in our baskets.

                                1. grrr, this is a pet peeve of mine too (that and onions which are already going bad when I buy them!). I think I use garlic pretty quickly (6 heads lasts 2-3 weeks) and i get sooo annoyed when it's sprouting almost as soon as I bring it home.

                                  I dropped 70 bucks on different varieties of garlic last fall to plant in my garden. I had many more bulbs than room to plant, so I've been cooking with the rest..but honestly the stored bulbs started to sprout much earlier than I expected them to (they were stored at the top of my cellar steps, in the dark). So I'm not too optimistic about the storage potential of what I'm growing, but I am looking forward to having lots of homegrown garlic.

                                  The cheap stuff from China seems to last just as long, or longer than the expensive organic bulbs that i get from Trader Joe's. I keep 'em all in a beautiful ceramic garlic jar that a friend brought me from Poland.

                                  Trader Joe's
                                  1427 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                                  1. This drives me crazy. I'm watching this thread in earnest. I've lived lots of places, and I never had this trouble with garlic until I moved to MA. So weird.

                                    1. The best local garlic I have found is from Hutchins Farm in Concord. They have a limited supply, only sell it for a few weeks, and do not bring it into the city for Farmer's markets. They don't really know what varieties they are selling. The stuff just started growing when they took over the farm. Start asking about it in June, and when it is dried go quickly to stock up.

                                      1. I am 100% satisfied with the garlic we buy from Russo's. I just killed a head last night (slivered into some broccoli cooked on the grill alongside an amazing butterflied boneless leg of lamb) that had to be at least a month old, and it was firm, unsprouted and delicious. Cheap, too: I think their price is $2.98 a pound, which means a head of garlic runs about 40-45 cents.

                                        As nsenada points out, this place sells garlic by the metric buttload (as one would expect from a greengrocer proudly bearing a fine Italian name), so sheer volume makes it unlikely that you're going to grab a head that's been sitting there since Jane Swift was in office.

                                        When we get them home, our garlic heads go into a jar roughly similar in size and shape to this:


                                        Which sits on a shelf next to the fridge under the CD player, so not a particularly "cool, dark place" or anything. However, ever since we started using this kind of ventilated jar, we've had no problem whatsoever with sprouting heads until they get genuinely elderly. And even then it's little shoot, not like those giant green scallion-like things we used to get in our garlic.

                                        1. The absolute best garlic I buy is in the summer at local farmers markets. Because they really take the time to dry it / cure it correctly it is WAY better and essentially lasts indefinitely. I stock up in August and the stuff lasts all winter in the fridge without sprouting.

                                          Commercially grown garlic ranges from passable to mediocre. The local stuff rocks.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            I agree. The supply I bought in late September lasted through the middle of March stored in a kitchen drawer. It never sprouted, although I did start losing some heads to mold by late February, and I ran out of non-moldy heads in March. Soft-neck varieties store a bit better than hard-neck varieties, in my experience. I think with a slightly better storage system and a better way to prevent mold, it would be easily possible to stock up in September and have the garlic last through the following June or July without sprouting.

                                          2. I have found fresh garlic at C-Mart in Chinatown regularly as well as the one in Roxbury which I don't visit as often.

                                            By fresh garlic though, I don't mean a fully developed head with many cloves that hasnt been stored for very long, but rather a much smaller head (usually in one or two cloves) that still has the green stalk growing out the top and is more pungent.

                                            Unless I truly need cloves for a particular preparation, I have been much more pleased with this form of garlic in the Boston area.


                                            1. The Argentinian garlic at Russo's lasts and seems to turn over quickly there. Not very local, but dense, heavy bulbs and a reasonable shelf life have kept me going back for more.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: suzysue2

                                                I agree; those at Russo's last for a couple of weeks and stay "fresh".

                                                Also, Russo's sells fresh garlic when it's in season.

                                              2. Have to agree with many others: farmers market garlic is the best -- I still have two heads left from last season and they are unsprouted. They are definitely on the mild side though, so I supplement them with garlic from Russo's which is the best I have been able to find locally. WF and even my beloved WIlson Farms both have garlic that is mostly already obviously sprouting.

                                                1. I figure that my garlic from shaws has been refridgerated at some point in its transport lifecycle, and therefore store it "improperly" in the fridge. My thought is that it will make the garlic think it is still winter, and too early to emerge. Generally works, although I always seem to be at the store buying more. On the few occasions when they do sprout, I stick 'em in the ground and hope for a new bulb, or at least scapes. Sometimes they survive, sometimes not. The best garlic I have had in the past few years came as an add-on from Boston Organics... nice and firm, great flavor.

                                                  1. Does anyone local carry spanish garlic? I was watching a Rick Bayless show where he made a roasted garlic olive oil mixture and put it into an airtight container (he didn't mention anything about it turning bad or needing to put it into the fridge though)...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Spike

                                                      I also caught that episode last week. I'm pretty sure Bayless said to refrigerate that garlic-oil mixture, but of course he used the whole jar on that episode. Boy that stuff looked good.