It’s happened to me too: I’m planning to serve buttery shrimp scampi and garlic bread for dinner. Then I notice that my garlic has sprouted little green shoots. Should I toss it or is it safe to eat? Should I remove the sprouts and cook with the rest?
Here’s what a garlic farmer, a registered dietician, a chef, and an expert on food waste say about whether it’s OK to eat sprouted garlic.
Is It Safe to Eat Sprouted Garlic?
All of the experts I consulted agree that it’s perfectly safe to eat sprouted garlic. “If you see small, tender green shoots off the garlic or even within the garlic bulb, it just means the garlic is reproducing itself,” explains Richard LaMarita, chef-instructor of Plant-Based Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education. “It’s completely natural and completely safe.”
Does Sprouted Garlic Taste Bad?
You can eat sprouted garlic, but is it a good idea? “It takes a while for garlic to produce those shoots so it might mean the garlic is getting a bit aged,” says LaMarita. “Sprouted garlic is not unsafe to eat, but it may not taste its best,” adds Bonnie Taub-Dix, Registered Dietician Nutritionist and author of Read It Before You Eat It.
If garlic has just begun to sprout and is still relatively firm and unblemished it will probably taste fine, although older garlic can develop a bitter, unpleasantly pungent flavor. Since sprouting is an indication that the garlic is no longer at its best quality, you should try to use it as soon as possible before it deteriorates further, says Janice Revell, cofounder of StillTasty.com, a website that helps readers avoid food waste.
Should You Remove the Sprout?
According to Greg Studer, a Wisconsin-based garlic farmer, while a garlic clove that has begun to sprout might not taste great, the sprout itself has a mild flavor, so there’s no need to remove it. In fact, the green shoots of new garlic—the garlic scapes—are considered a delicacy by many.
Of course, if you prefer not to eat the sprout you can remove it by slicing the clove in half and using the tip of your knife to remove the green part.
This Is When You Should Throw Garlic Away
“Garlic is bad and should be discarded when it becomes moldy, soft, spongy and discolored,” says LaMarita. “Fresh garlic should be plump and firm and tightly wrapped in its papery skin.”
Studer adds, “If your garlic is getting soft, it is time to break open the bulb and throw away the soft cloves and monitor the other cloves, and try to use them up as soon as possible.”
How To Store Garlic So It Doesn’t Sprout
1. Keep your garlic cool and dry
“The best way to store garlic is in a cool, dark, and airy location,” says Studer, adding that this “vampire of vegetables” should be kept out of the sunlight, as well as away from dampness and heat. Studer also says to avoid storing garlic in a closed drawer or cabinet, next to hot appliances like the stove, or in the refrigerator.
“Ceramic garlic jars help keep garlic cool and fresh if you have small quantities,” says Studer. “A good wire basket hanging in a cool location is excellent for a larger amount of garlic.” Depending on the variety of garlic, well-stored bulbs can last between two and nine months.
2. Can’t use your garlic before it sprouts? Try freezing it.
Revell and Studer both recommend freezing garlic if you can’t use it before it sprouts or if you have a large amount that’s just begun to sprout. “One option is to peel and chop the garlic before placing it in the freezer in a freezer bag or airtight container,” says Revell.
“Then you can just break off a piece of the frozen garlic when you need it, which is very convenient. You can also place the entire garlic bulb in the freezer in a freezer bag or airtight container. Garlic will keep in the freezer for about a year.”
Using sprouted garlic is fine from a safety and culinary perspective. But once your garlic has started to sprout, the clock is ticking on its usability so put it to use quickly in your favorite garlicky recipes or freeze it for future use.