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Oct 23, 2011 03:31 PM

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 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.