Garlic is a popular ingredient used in many cuisines around the world. However, sometimes garlic can develop a yellowish coloration, which may cause some people to wonder if it is still safe to eat. In this article, we’ll take a look at what causes garlic to turn yellow, whether yellow garlic is safe to consume, and how to store garlic properly to prevent discoloration.
What Causes Garlic to Turn Yellow?
There are a few different reasons why garlic cloves can become yellow or yellowish-brown in color:
- Aging – As garlic ages and sits on the shelf for an extended period of time, its cloves naturally begin to turn yellowish and become more dried out.
- Sunlight exposure – Exposure to UV rays from sunlight can cause a reaction that turns garlic cloves yellow.
- Sprouting – Garlic that is sprouting and starting to grow shoots will often develop yellowish-brown cloves.
- Bruising – Physical damage to garlic bulbs from rough handling can cause bruising and yellow spots.
- Disease – Certain fungal diseases like yellow blotch, basal rot, or blue mold can infect garlic and lead to yellowing.
- Cold temperature exposure – Temperatures below 40°F can damage garlic and cause it to turn yellow.
So in summary, the most common reasons for garlic to become yellow are age, sunlight, sprouting, physical damage, disease, and cold temperatures. This color change is usually an indication that the garlic is past its prime freshness.
Is Yellow Garlic Safe to Eat?
For the most part, yellow garlic is still safe to eat as long as it hasn’t molded or rotted. However, the quality and flavor profile of the garlic is usually compromised at this point. Here are some key points about safety and quality:
- Aged yellow garlic that hasn’t sprouted or become soft is safe but will have a stale flavor.
- Sprouted garlic is safe if sprouts are small, but larger sprouts take over the clove’s flavor.
- Garlic with disease spots or lesions should be discarded.
- Garlic that is very soft, wrinkled, or has green mold should also be thrown out.
- Yellow garlic from cold temperature damage is harmless but can be bitter in taste.
- Garlic that is bruised but still firm should be trimmed of damaged portions.
While yellow garlic seldom poses safety issues, its quality is inferior to fresh white garlic. The texture becomes increasingly dried out and chewy. Original garlic flavor diminishes, replaced by harsh, bitter, and sometimes sour notes.
If you notice your garlic bulbs or cloves turning yellow, try to use them up quickly to take advantage of any remaining freshness and flavor. For cooking purposes, consider substituting fresh garlic for dishes where appearance and texture are less important.
How to Store Garlic Properly
To get the most out of your garlic and prevent premature yellowing, it’s important to store it properly. Here are some tips for storing garlic correctly:
- Keep garlic in a cool, dry, dark place. Light and moisture cause garlic to deteriorate.
- Store bulbs loose rather than bundled together in mesh bags or braids.
- Allow air circulation so garlic can “breathe” – don’t use sealed containers.
- Refrigeration can extend shelf life for up to a few months.
- Cut off sprouts as soon as they appear to slow sprouting.
- Use fresh garlic within a few weeks for optimal flavor and quality.
With optimal storage conditions, fresh garlic bulbs should last 2-3 months before signs of yellowing appear. Hardneck garlic tends to keep longer than softneck varieties. Once cloves are peeled, they should be used within a week.
Here is a helpful table summarizing proper garlic storage guidelines:
|Storage Location||Recommended Conditions|
|Pantry||Cool (50-65°F), dry, dark, loosely packed in basket/bowl with air circulation|
|Fridge||High humidity drawer or perforated plastic bag|
|Freezer||Blanched, peeled, and frozen in airtight container for up to 3 months|
|Countertop||Avoid – causes rapid sprouting and spoilage|
Signs That Garlic Has Gone Bad
If you’re unsure whether an aging garlic bulb remains usable or has spoiled, watch for these signs that indicate it’s time to throw it out:
- Very soft, mushy texture
- Translucent, shriveled cloves
- Green shoots longer than 1-2 inches
- Darkened cloves with grey, green, or black mold
- Strong odor, especially if foul or sour smelling
- Any evidence of bacteria contamination like sliminess or sticky ooze
Discard garlic immediately if you notice any of the above signs of spoilage. It’s not worth risking illness over garlic that has gone bad.
Using Yellow Garlic in Recipes
While yellow garlic won’t provide the best flavor for raw applications like garlic bread or salad dressing, there are still ways it can be used in cooking:
- Soups, stews, and stocks – The long simmering helps mellow any bitter notes
- Roasted garlic – Baking softens flavor; spreads nicely when roasted
- Pesto and sauces – Other ingredients help mask off tastes
- Pickling – Vinegar and salt brine impart their own flavors
- Marinades and rubs – Spices and herbs pair well to enhance overall flavor
Keep in mind that older yellow garlic provides less “garlic punch” than fresh, so increase the amount as needed. Add it early in cooking process so the flavor has time to develop. Combining yellow garlic with other ingredients can still make it usable for many cooked dishes rather than discarding it.
While yellow garlic may not be as appealing or flavorful as fresh white garlic, it is generally still safe to eat barring signs of mold, sprouting, or rotting. To get the most shelf life and optimal flavor out of garlic, store bulbs properly in a cool, dry, dark space. Use yellowing garlic promptly and in cooked applications rather than raw. With proper handling, you can enjoy garlic’s flavors and health benefits without having to worry about safety issues.