So Your Garlic (and Onion) Grew a Sprout. Can You Still Use It?

updated May 1, 2019
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Reach for a few cloves of garlic or an onion as you’re prepping dinner and you may be greeted by a little green sprout that’s shot through it. It tends to look a bit like an intruder, and you probably want to know if it’s safe to eat. Before you toss that garlic or onion in the trash, know the facts. Here’s the truth about those sprouts.

Why Did My Garlic or Onion Sprout, and Is It Safe to Use?

Those little sprouts grow as the allium ages. So often, when you pick up a head of garlic at the grocery store, it’s already been sitting around for a bit, which means it could have started sprouted before you even brought it home. The sprouts will also grow if the garlic or onion isn’t stored properly. For garlic, you’ll notice if you slice a clove lengthwise, the pale green sprout has grown smack-dab in the center. For onions, the sprout grows through the center of the bulb.

The good news is the sprouts are safe to eat. They do have a tendency to taste a bit bitter, however. I don’t find I notice it much when I am cooking the garlic or onion, but it’s more apparent when it’s used raw, so I only worry about removing it in that case. Some people will remove it regardless, but it’s really up to you. Actually, a study was done a few years ago that showed sprouted garlic had higher levels of antioxidants, so that may be a case for leaving it put.

How to Store Garlic and Onions to Prevent Sprouting

Of course you don’t have much control over how your grocery store keeps its garlic and onions, but at home try to store it in ideal conditions to prevent sprouting. It’s best to keep it at cool room temperature, about 55 to 65°F, with moderate humidity. That means storing it in a cool, dark pantry is the way to go.