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Chefs weigh in on how that little green sprout can affect the taste of a dish.

Meghan Overdeep
March 31, 2018

We know how it goes. Your garlic is just hanging out, minding its own business, when one day, it sprouts! That’s a telltale sign it’s past its prime, right?

Not necessarily.

Jason Hovell, owner of Tamarack Garlic Farm in Trempealeau, Wisconsin, told The Takeout that the clove of the garlic should be safe from the bitter taste of the green portion of the sprout for about two weeks after you first notice it.

“If I see some sprouting and am thinking of using that bulb for culinary purposes, I usually cut a tad off and give it the smell/taste test, just like you would with a jug of milk you find in the back of the refrigerator. Nine out of 10 times, it’s good,” Hovell said. “Cloves that I reject tend to be mushy at this stage of its life cycle, and I will definitely discard those.”

Andrea Geary, deputy food editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, recommended cutting a sprouted clove in half lengthwise to remove the entire sprout with the tip of a knife before cooking with it. This chef-approved method for salvaging sprouted garlic is perfect for when you find yourself in a pinch.

“It would be especially important to do so in a recipe where the garlic is raw and a major flavor component, in a garlic vinaigrette, for instance,” Geary told The Takeout. “But if the sprout is really tiny, and you’re cooking the garlic, in spaghetti sauce for example, I think you can get away with leaving it in.”

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Geary added that you should always toss garlic if the sprout is three inches or longer. At that point the sprout’s used up most of the sugar in the garlic (that’s what it needs to grow), and the entire clove will be bitter.