Cutting open a clove of garlic usually reveals white or cream-colored flesh inside, occasionally with a brown fleck or two. The inside of garlic isn’t supposed to be green, so if you split open a clove and find that it is, you might be wondering whether you can eat the garlic or not.
Garlic with some green inside should be safe to eat, either raw or cooked. Usually, the green inside is a sign that your garlic is starting to sprout. This tends to happen if the garlic is old. Sometimes, the green inside your garlic is excess chlorophyll that the plant is producing because it is being exposed to a lot of light.
It’s a good idea to check whether garlic is okay to eat before slicing it up for a meal, and in this article, we’ll cover why garlic goes green and whether you can safely eat the green parts.
Why Is Your Garlic Turning Green?
Your garlic may be turning green for a few different reasons. It is usually because:
- It has been exposed to too much light and has therefore begun producing chlorophyll
- It has been heavily fertilized
- It is starting to grow, often because the clove is getting old and is therefore putting its energy into generating new growth
Let’s explore the first reason, to begin with. Garlic cloves are actually just modified leaves where the garlic stores some of its energy below the ground. The leaves swell up so that they can hold extra nutrients, and they turn white because there is no chlorophyll in them. They are below ground, so there’s no reason for the plant to produce chlorophyll here.
However, if the garlic is dug up and exposed to the sun, the plant will respond to the additional light and start producing chlorophyll so that these parts can also photosynthesize and produce energy. The same may happen if you heavily fertilize a garlic plant and give it too many nutrients, encouraging it to produce more leaves.
Alternatively, your garlic bulb may be turning green in the center because it is trying to produce new leaves. These will often appear as a separate sprout growing within the clove, and you might be able to simply pull the sprout out. Sometimes, however, it will be more firmly attached. This often happens if your garlic clove is getting old and needs to be used up.
Is Garlic Okay To Eat If It Has Gone Green Inside?
You might be wondering whether you need to throw the garlic away when this has happened, but the great news is that you don’t. The green garlic won’t do you any harm at all, although you may find that it has a more bitter flavor. Some people don’t enjoy the taste of green garlic and prefer to cut it out.
This is because chlorophyll can be quite bitter, and the more chlorophyll that is present in the garlic, the more bitter the garlic will taste. A hint of green is unlikely to make any noticeable difference, but if the garlic has gone very green, be aware that its flavor is likely to have changed.
You can eat the garlic or the shoots, but many people prefer not to because of the bitterness. Cooking them may help to improve the flavor, but they will often lack the characteristic sweetness that people tend to associate with garlic.
What Is Green Garlic?
You may have heard of “green garlic,” and this is another name for wet garlic. The term refers to the immature bulbs of garlic, harvested when they are still young. This immature garlic has a much milder flavor than the mature, dried garlic that most people are used to dealing with.
Green garlic has a long green stalk coming out of the top of the bulb, but the bulb itself is usually still white, despite the name. It often has a little pink or purple around the top of the bulb, below the first of the green.
Some people swap green garlic for spring onions or for leeks, and it has a nutty, rich flavor. The tips of the leaves are usually cut away, but the rest – including the green parts of the leaves – is used in cooking.
What Makes Garlic Sprout?
If your garlic has sprouted, you might be wondering how you can prevent this from happening in the future. The answer is to store your garlic correctly. It needs to be kept in a cool, dry, and dark place – because all three of these conditions will help to prevent it from sprouting.
Plants like garlic need warmth, moisture, and sunlight in order to sprout, and if the garlic bulbs in your cupboard get these conditions (or some of them), they are much more likely to start producing green shoots to try to grow into a new plant.
You may find that garlic sprouts even if you do successfully keep it dry, cool, and dark, but it is less likely to do so and should keep much better in these conditions. If your garlic does start to sprout, check whether it has got wet, and then chop the green end off and aim to use the garlic up more quickly.
Often, a clove of garlic that has sprouted will not taste as good as garlic that is fresh and unsprouted. This is because the clove will start putting its nutrients into producing new leaves and creating chlorophyll, which will increase the bitterness and use up some of the sugars. You should aim to use garlic bulbs before they have time to sprout, although sprouted garlic is safe to eat.
Garlic may turn green if it starts producing chlorophyll, which can happen if it gets too much fertilizer or too much sunlight. Sometimes, garlic turns green inside because it has got damp and is starting to sprout and produce new leaves. Neither situation makes the garlic unsafe to consume, although you may find that green garlic is slightly bitter.