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Garlic--I keep buying fresh garlic that has a green and bitter center

What is the secret when buying garlic? I just bought a head today at Whole Foods and it was incredibly bitter. What am I doing wrong?

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  1. Many chefs remove that green center, which I understand is the sign of it getting older.

    7 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      I'm just surprised that this keeps happening...and even at Whole Foods!

      1. re: DaisyM

        It shouldn't really happen, as that bit can be inedible as you say. I thought it was a sign off getting older as well so perhaps you should have a word with them, or take it back?

        1. re: pj26

          Next time I'm going to ask when the garlic was delivered! I seem to have this problem a lot with garlic. I

          1. re: DaisyM

            Delivery won't be the issue. It's the time-lag from harvesting.

            Of course, there is always some lag with garlic that's been dried off but green centres are a sure sign of age. Where I am, it's almost inevitable that there will be green at this time of year.

            1. re: Harters

              When is the best time to buy garlic? Do you end up roasting "old" garlic to try to get less bitterness? Thanks for any suggestions!

              1. re: DaisyM

                Just flick out the green bit and carry on. It'll be fine

                1. re: DaisyM

                  Garlic harvests occur in July, and the growers let the garlic air dry until early August. That's the best time to purchase garlic. I usually buy a few pounds of it at our local garlic festival. I plant garlic in September from this stash and use the rest. I still see fresh organic local garlic for sale at our Farmer's Market and in select top end stores at this time of year, but most of the great stuff is gone to market and sold by now. Unfortunately. If I have "old" garlic, I'll remove the center core before using it. if it s really old/dessicated, out it goes. Life is too short for old garlic!

        1. re: linguafood

          We're planning a "bring your own garlic and toilet paper dinner". The academics will love it!

          1. re: DaisyM

            sounds right down my alley... cu next tuesday?

            1. re: linguafood

              Honestly, no hard feelings! We all could use more laughter in our lives.

        2. Why aren't you just removing it? Dorie Greenspan says she does all the time (Yes, I admit, I have always done it, too) and while her French friends are surprised--they never do--she prefers it.

          I have never found that it adds bitterness, but seems to add some heat or acidity. But of course YMMV.

          1. I always look very carefull at garlic when I buy. Most places do not toss the shrivelled or the sprouting heads.

            1. 90 percent of garlic comes from China and has been harvested months and months and months ago and is treated to prevent growth, which is why you don't get garlic with these "cores" very often at the grocery store. But you will see this in untreated garlic that is starting to sprout. I'm not sure what they are selling at Whole Foods. It may very well be local and organic but probably was harvested and stored a year or more ago and just now is brought to market.
              In any event, most people remove this core and use the garlic. I grow my own garlic and store it untreated, in a cool dark place, and I get these cores and green centers after around 10 months of storage. I simply remove the core and use the garlic. See if you can get to a Farmer's Market (might be too late this time of year) and get fresh organic garlic and store it yourself in a cool dark spot with good ventilation. Our garlic from our garden lasts a good year.

              9 Replies
              1. re: freia

                Thanks, I had no idea you could store garlic for that long.

                1. re: DaisyM

                  I guess you don't use much garlic.

                  As others have said, you just remove the green center and carry on. One ought to be buying a "firm"-feeling head of garlic anyway - it's the less firm ones that are the older ones that are beginning to sprout. Look for heads that are firm when you squeeze them, have the papery membranes still closely wrapped around the cloves, the bottom parts are "clean" and not growing roots, that do not have cloves that are squishy and/or showing brown or green even if the rest of the head is sort-of firm; and, obviously, heads where none of the cloves is showing a "sprout" beginning to emerge from the top part of the clove.

                  As for myself - I've gone through enough garlic, sometimes 10-12 heads over 3 or 4 weeks, sometimes much less, depending on my mood, what I'm cooking, the phase of the moon - that having a head of garlic with green centers in some cloves is a rare or inconsequential issue for me, although of late I've used less garlic than before. Bitter? Not that I've noticed. In fact, I usually just chop everything up, including green/sprouting parts, on old heads/cloves of garlic and just throw it into whatever I'm cooking.

                  p.s. I see you are in Philly. Surely garlic can't be expensive where you are? I buy them at very reasonable prices in Asian groceries, or in the local Marsh/whatever western-style supermarket where they are frequently at prices like 5 heads/$2 or similar. I can't imagine they would cost substantially different in Philly - so it is easy enough to just simply chuck out a head if you don't like it and get a nice, fresh, firm head of garlic.

                  1. re: huiray

                    It wasn't an issue of cost....it was the bitterness of the garlic. And the head I got today does not have a green center....and is incredibly bitter. (purchased at local farmer's market). If I was cooking with it, it wouldn't be a problem, but it is for a salad dressing and is just too sharp to use.

                    1. re: DaisyM

                      I realize I should have stated that I'm using the garlic raw.

                      1. re: DaisyM

                        DaisyM, don't forget that there are tons and tons and tons of varieties of garlic out there. Many are noted for their sharp and bitter taste. Others are quite mellow. You'll see this if/when you get to a garlic festival (you gotta go, they are so much fun!). It very well may be the particular variety that you are buying. Most stores won't tell you what variety they have, they just sell "garlic". If you buy at the Farmer's Market, ask them what variety they are selling. If they don't know, then it could be anything because many seed catalogues out there sell "garlic seed" without defining the actual variety. IF using raw, and you don't want that bite, see if you can get a Italian Red or Red Russian or French Silverskin. For raw garlic I use Music variety, its pretty common and fairly mild. Although in Caesar Salad my DH loves a sharp sharp garlic so we move to the Hungarian Hot variety. Don't forget that at garlic festivals you can actually sample small pieces of each variety to see what tastes good to you. The last one I went to had the garlic lined up like wine tasting flights, mellowest first right on to the sharp ones LOL. It was so much fun!
                        Anyways, here is a resource or two for you about garlic:
                        The latter article is a bit complex, but there are also other resources out there. Don't give up! Garlic is AWESOME!

                        1. re: freia

                          Freia, you are AMAZING! How do you know so much about garlic? I've never heard of any of those varieties!

                          1. re: DaisyM

                            I love love LOVE garlic, and grow my own. I've learned so much about the humble garlic in the past few years having grown and stored it. I was tired of the supermarket store garlic - the right variety that suits your taste is really a joy in any dish. Happy reading, and happy garlic hunting.

                            1. re: freia

                              You've inspired me, thank you!

                      2. re: DaisyM

                        Ah. Well, in my experience VERY FRESH garlic - straight out of the ground - WILL taste less mellow than those that have been allowed to age a little and/or dry out (which the vendor should do before selling it); although I would characterize the taste as more "green" than "bitter". Nevertheless, it may also depend on the variety - some will be mellower from the start, some not. Still, I am also not entirely sure what you mean when you say "bitter" in this case.

                        As a work-around perhaps blanching the cloves before use might work for you.

                2. This is typically the time of year when they bring out the garlic and onions that were harvested many months ago and are extraordinarily pungent and high in sulfur. Like others have suggested, you can just cut out the center, or simply use less. You're likely to encounter this in other markets at this time of year too.

                  1. If it's starting to sprout and you have room, plant it in a pot outside. What have you got to lose? If the resulting garlic crop tastes bad, toss it. Cheap, easy science/farming/culinary experiment.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: EWSflash

                      remember to break the cloves apart, before planting! Each clove will grow into a head of garlic. The larger the clove, the larger the head :)

                      1. re: KarenDW

                        one thing though, a lot of garlic takes two years to form an actuall head. The first year you're likey to get a "round"; a circular single clove head (if youever ever heard of "one clove garlic" those are rounds.) let the round go another season and you'll get the actual multiclove head.)

                        1. re: jumpingmonk

                          Actually, Ive never had the problem above, and I've been growing garlic at home for 10 years now UNLESS I've lifted the garlic up too early or the garlic hasn't received enough sun (I plant it in the front). In that case, I can tell as the stalk out of the ground is thinner and "weaker looking". Commercial garlic growers in our area also plant and harvest yearly.
                          Don't forget that the number of cloves per head is often a varietal issue.
                          Elephant garlic often comes out as a single clove in the first year and will split in the second. However, elephant garlic isn't a true garlic, it is instead related to the leek family not the allium family.
                          If it is true garlic with only one clove, it has probably been lifted early and hasn't had time to split. It is true garlic but just a single clove because it hasn't been in the ground long enough.
                          Here's a great article on how many cloves per head to expect per garlic variety...

                          1. re: freia

                            While it is is true that elephant garlic is not the same species as regular, and indeed is the same species as the asian leek, it is in the Allium family (or more accurately the allium genus) for the simple reason that the alliums include all of the plants we have mentioned, along with onions, shallots, Japanese onion, etc.

                            I suppose there is a varietal issue to be considered, my longicuspus garlic never made more than four cloves a head no matter how big a head I bought, and the stuff I am planning to put in come spring has a dozen cloves per head despite the fact that the heads are only about the size of a small walnut.
                            Truth be told I was only repeating what I had heard when I mentioned the "once clove" thing. I've never actually grown garlic to head level, I love green garlic so much that I've usually eaten my whole crop long before they get that big (I'll have to remember to show a little forbearance this year, if I want to actually have some left to plant in the future.)

                            1. re: jumpingmonk

                              I guess we're getting stuck in the details...while belonging to the onion genus as does true garlic, it is in a different species. True garlic is A. savitum. Elephant garlic is A. ampeloprasm which is a leek. So if you go up the chain taxonomically, you will find that all things are indeed related to each other. To me, its kind of like saying a green onion, flowering aka ornamental allium,and garlic are "the same thing". Although in the same family, there are some 700 species within this family. So elephant garlic is really a leek, not a true garlic. The common factor amongst all the allium family is the production of odoriferous compounds...and garlic aka A. savitum is considered the type species...
                              In any event, you should try to let some of your crop grow nice and big. You can still eat it green, aka uncured...and have you tried the scapes? Preserving/pickling garlic scapes is really huge up here.

                              1. re: freia

                                Mu objection with waht you had said was merely that I disagreed with the statemement that "Elephant garlic was in the leek famil,y while garlic was in the allium family" since it impled that leeks etc, were not alliums.
                                I have tried scapes, but as I tend to like my green garlic stir fried, and scapes are too tough for that. It's the same reason I tend to go for softneck.s as opposed to hardnecks; they give me more time where the leaves are still moist enough to be edible wiith a quick fry oer even raw, as opposed to needing long braising.
                                Actually I have something weird to play around with this year as an experiment, since I grow quite a few of the "wild" garlics as well. Last autum while I was idly pulling up some crow garlic (the stringy, poor tasting stuff that grows wild in lawns) I pulled up two plants that astonished me. Structurally, the bulbs have the crow garlic build (a few shelled cloves surround one or two large, unshelled ones). The only thing is that, at least as far as i know, crow garic bulbs never get much bigger than a hazelnut; this one was almost the size of a commericial domestic clove. the bulb construction of course means it can't be (puls it had some seeds in the head along with bulbils, and true garlic that can set true seed is all but unheard of (though heavily sought for). We''l have to see come spring.

                    2. Here's a somewhat dated (2002) article on the garlic trade from Western Farm Press that's an eye-opener:


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: GH1618

                        wow. everyone should read that.

                      2. Blame Mother Nature....The Garlic is trying to sprout......Remove it and move on.

                        1. When you buy 'fresh' garlic do the 'weight test' Like you'd do when choosing an orange or lemon....hoist a head of garlic in your hand. If it feels like it hardly has any weight to it it's because it's dried out and that means it's probably got a little green sprout inside it. If it feels like it's got some weight to it that means it's more likely to be fresher. The heavier any produce the fresher.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Puffin3

                            I've recently discovered when looking for 'fresh' garlic that if the cloves are fattening and pulling away from one another and from the center that green sprouts are forming. Usually all in that batch come from the same source and are beginning to develop sprouts. The sprouts seem to take up half the clove, so when you remove them, there's not much garlic meat left!

                            Also I asked a couple of Central Valley growers at our local So Cal farmers' market when was the best time to plant. Answer - by the end of October for spring harvest, otherwise the plants had to over-summer for fall harvest, that is unless you wanted 'green garlic.' I'm growing garlic for the first time and have planted several wide shallow clay pots - just need to keep them from drying out all winter.

                            1. re: msmarm

                              Also, don' forget that So Cal climate is different from us northern climates. Up here, we plant before first hard frost, and harvest in July. Letting it dry for 3-4 weeks makes it ready for storage. I'm not sure what the term "green garlic" refers to -- I always thought it was garlic fresh out of the ground before the bulbs mature. It looks like a large green onion with a pale single bulb at the end. As in, not mature for harvest. If you let your garlic stay in the ground, and don't harvest in spring but in July, you'll have mature garlic. If you let the garlic stay in the ground until mid fall up here, you will have the bulbs more than mature -- the cloves will be bursting out of their skins making them difficult to dry and store and susceptible to fungus and disease. So, just speaking from experience, plant in the fall before hard frost hits, and harvest when ready, usually mid season aka June/July depending on your location. Don't leave them in the ground past maturity. or else they won't be storable and will be suspect to disease. I personally have never heard of a mid-fall harvest unless perhaps in So Cal they plant in the spring, then that would make sense. And if you want green garlic, you're pulling them before the cloves differentiate so don't be disappointed if you harvest in May and have what look like big green onions with a single small bulb.

                          2. this has been an education. Thanks.

                            1. You are buying old garlics. The only way to tell if the garlic is fresh is to ask where it's coming from and most importantly by lifting the bulbs to feel if they are light in weight. The lighter they are as with any so-called fresh veg. the less water content meaning the more it has dried out. I always lift say oranges and feel their weight. Same with garlics. I've had seem funny stares from customers watching me lift a dozen oranges to feel which ones are the heaviest. All the 'produce' people working in the store know what I'm doing though. With some practice it's easy to get the best from a display. I know some grocery workers don't like the fact that I'm 'handling' their produce. Tough. It's my money.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Puffin3

                                The grocery workers handle the produce.

                                I always weigh the garlic in my hand. It's the first thing I do.

                                Firm and heavy, or I don't buy it; as I want the typical bag of five bulbs to last me a while before it gets light and starts sprouting.