Thursday, January 17, 2013

Permaculture Tip: What to do with your Sprouted Garlic Bulbs

My bowl of sprouted garlic bulbs.

When I use fresh garlic (and you should, too... not that jar of pre-minced stuff!), I inevitably have some cloves start to sprout. Maybe the garlic was older, or the moisture in my kitchen higher. Whatever the reason, a decision has to be made. Can I use it? The short answer is yes. Here are a few ways:

1) Use it as normal. If the sprout is small, and the clove has not become soft, then it will have little influence on the dish. Chop the sprout with the clove, and use it as if it wasn't even there. The old wive's tales you may have heard from your mother or grandmother about sprouted garlic being poisonous or causing cancer or causing ulcers or whatever... all wrong. Sprouted garlic is just fine to eat. No worries.

2) Trim out the sprout. Some people don't want green in whatever it is they are cooking. Some people think the spout tastes bitter, though I have never found it to be so. But if you do not want the sprout, and the rest of the bulb is still firm and still smells like good, fresh garlic, then just cut the bulb in half, right down the long side of the sprout, and peel it out. It is quite easy to do. Then use the rest of the garlic bulb as normal.

3) Plant it! This is one of my favorite things to do with sprouted garlic bulbs. I typically have a pile of sprouted garlic bulbs in my kitchen (see the photo above). When the pile gets too big, I take them outside and plant them everywhere I can. Just place them sprout side up in the dirt and push down until the bulb is covered all the way. Put them in the flower boxes. Put them in pots. Put them in the hanging planters. Put them amongst the flowers and vegetables. Put them anywhere you have dirt. If it is too cold outside, then put them in planters in the house. They grow easily and fast. Leave them in place long enough, and a new head (with a bunch of new cloves) will form.

Note: This works for garlic and onions and shallots alike. I even take scallions (a.k.a. green onions) that still have some roots and plant them as well. Typically, the bunch from the store has just a few too many shoots for the meal I am making. The extras go right into the garden after I trim the wilted leaves off of them. I have at least a dozen scallion plants growing in just one planter near my driveway. It is so simple, takes next to no work, and provides me with fresh, flavorful ingredients... just a snip away!

Permaculture Tip is an idea that is derived from observing and interacting with nature.  It is simple.  It is safe.  It is effective.  It helps build a sustainable system of agriculture and life in general.  If you have any Permaculture Tips you would like to share, please let me know.  I will post it here, give you the credit, and post a link to your blog or website if you have one.  Email me here:


  1. Good idea. Garlic has lots of uses in permaculture. Easy to grow too.

  2. The green sprouted part in the centre of the clove is in essence a flatulence catalyser.

    Slice the clove in half, and then peel the shoot out and eat what remains and you may come off with less wind, some people say.

  3. Is it ok that my garlic already has 4-6 inch sprouts now. Planted late October or the first of November. The temps are beginning to become much colder at night. I'm in central Georgia.

  4. I have a special question for assistance -- my dad saved me a dozen dried garlic cloves from his garden in Connecticut -- I live in Zone 7 Texas -- my dad passed away before telling me what to do with them so I planted the, in good potting soil in a hanging basket and the are growing now 2 inch green shoots and thriving well. But I read they like cool weather and I'm in Texas -- what do I do with them now? I really want to help them thrive and grow for cooking -- these are special garlic cloves -- advice appreciated

  5. Is this organic garlic only or can store bought garlic do this as well?

  6. Is this organic garlic only or can store bought garlic do this as well?

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