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Jul 22, 2006 09:24 AM

The sprout in the garlic clove

The instructor of a cooking class I once took told us that the sprout in a clove of garlic is indigestible and should be removed. I realize that it's best to buy garlic as fresh as possible, before the sprout has had a chance to develop, but this is the real world, where sometimes you just have to take what you can find.

So what do you do about the sprout? Ignore it? Cut it out? Depends how old the garlic is? What if you want to leave the garlic whole in your dish?

I'd be interested to hear the insights of you chowhounds!

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  1. I always remove it. I use a curved paring knife (see link below) It makes slicing a clove in half and removing the sprout a two-second job.

    1. I always remove it, but Mario claims that in some area of Italy these shoots actually are considered a delicacy! You might want to decide for yourself: remove a shoot and eat it. If you like the way it tastes, just leave 'em in.

      1. I doubt the sprout is indigestible. I've had it before with no problem; but then, I'm becoming lactose intolerant in my old age and have absolutely no intentions of refraining from putting cheese and milk in any recipe I can.

        I think it's a matter of taste. The garlic sprout is a very bitter thing, not at all like a bean sprout or lettuce sprout, and also not at all like the garlic clove. It really has more of a radish/chive kind of effect, so it depends entirely on what the garlic is being used on. That flavor might work great with pork, but I wouldn't throw the sprout into my pasta sauce.

        Try it yourself and don't worry about your stomach. It can handle its own. Indigestible? I wonder that no one ever sits down and really thinks about how we came to the foods we came to eat, as a species. How many ancient men suffered to find out which mushrooms were palatable, which disagreeable, which downright poisonous? And what about berries? Who was the desperate man who ate the rancid milk only to discover that it was wonderful cheese? What wanderer fearfully plucked the poison shoots off a cactus to find that the inside could be eaten like fruit and the juice sustain him through the desert?

        Hell, if you can't experiment with your food, then where's the art in it?

        4 Replies
        1. re: aesdanae

          I always think about artichokes. What fool decided to try to eat them? Aren't we grateful he did!

          1. re: laliz

            Olives, too. You'd have to be some sort of food visionary to taste one of those things right off the tree and think, "Maybe if I soak it in brine for a few months..."

            1. re: laliz

              Whoever did, I bet the "choke" certainly gave him more than a little pause. . . .

          2. When I was first getting serious about cooking, most of my cookbooks were from trendy coastal places, and they all warned me never to use garlic that had a green shoot in it. Well, I was in Nashville, Tennessee, and if I'd followed that rule I'd have had to forego using any fresh garlic at all! Then I got one of Elizabeth David's books, and it said: split garlic and remove the green sprout (implying that OF COURSE your garlic has a sprout in it - this is England!).

            I will admit to having just left them in now and then, and never noticed any nasty flavors or symptoms of gastric distress...

            1. If the sprout -- technically called the germ until it sprouts from the clove -- is indigestible or bitter-tasting, it is really only noticeably so when uncooked. My general rule is to degerm when using the garlic raw in salads, sauces, cold soups, etc., and to leave it in otherwise.