Garlic is the foundation of so many delicious dishes. It's the primary ingredient in our ultimate garlic knots, adds a savory base to hearty bowls of pasta, and even takes on a delicate sweetness when roasted whole. It's a culinary workhorse and a staple in Team Delish's kitchen.
If you cook with garlic as much as we do, you've likely ended up with a sprouted clove or two. As garlic gets past its prime, the cloves can develop small green sprouts in the center that eventually push out and continue to grow. Depending on the household, you may have been taught to use those sprouted cloves as you normally would, or you were told that those sprouts make the garlic bitter and even unsafe to eat.
In a perfect world, we'd always have fresh garlic on hand and never have to deal with those pesky sprouts. But do they actually pose a danger to our health? What should we do when we crack open a clove and find a surprise sprout inside?
The short answer is: sprouted garlic is 100 percent safe to eat, but it has a distinctly different flavor.
Besides maybe bad breath, there are no side effects to eating sprouted garlic. They may even have a health benefit, according to a 2014 study that found higher levels of antioxidants in older cloves. Those little green sprouts may not be a health risk, but they are a sign that your garlic has changed in flavor.
The sprouts you may find in an older clove of garlic are, in fact, not bitter at all. The tender green center is actually the beginning of a new garlic plant and have a mild grassy flavor, according to a report by Cook's Illustrated. The bitterness actually comes from the clove itself.
When garlic is younger and fresher, the cloves are packed with natural sugars. However, as it goes through the process of growing the sprout, the sugar reserve depletes and leaves the garlic tasting sharp and intense. Therefore, removing the sprout from your garlic clove is actually a fruitless task. All of that hard work surgically removing the sprout will still leave you with that strong, overwhelming flavor—and sticky, smelly fingers.
While that aggressive garlic flavor is not exactly appetizing on its own, it makes a minimal difference in recipes where you use a small amount. It does, however, make a huge impact in garlic-forward recipes like garlic bread and dishes that incorporate the raw ingredient, such as aioli.
Accidentally picking a package of sprouted garlic at the grocery store may be out of your control, but you can prevent your fresh garlic from growing sprouts with proper storage. The best place to keep your garlic is in a cool, dark space with a moderate amount of humidity. Your pantry is the best bet for keeping your garlic in good shape.
Do you cook with sprouted garlic? Let us know in the comments below.
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