Should You Remove the Green Germ from Garlic?

Garlic

Garlic has a season, and depending on where you live, that season is usually spring through mid-summer. In France, we get ail nouveau, which are heads of garlic that are very plump and slightly soft, whose moist skin is tinged with a bit of pink. As it ages, the garlic becomes more rosy in color, and there is even a special “rose” garlic in France called ail rose de Lautrec, whose status is certified by the French government. As the months progress, garlic season ends and the remaining heads go into storage.

Garlic

In France, garlic that has been kept is often referred to as ail sec, or dried garlic. And in many cases, during storage, those cloves of garlic will develop a green germ inside that is said to be bitter and should be removed. I know, because I’ve said that myself. But I’ve never really put it to the test. So when a friend, who worked closely with Marcella Hazan (an expert on Italian cuisine) told me that Marcella never removed the green germ (her reasoning being that since it was new garlic in the making, it was tender and not bitter), I figured it would be interesting to see – and taste – if removing it really did make a difference.

Garlic

First up: I made a batch of mayonnaise using cold-pressed safflower oil rather than olive oil, so the taste of the garlic would be more prominent. (Hence the lighter color than traditional aïoli.) I divided the mayonnaise and for each batch of mayonnaise (85 grams each) I added 10 grams of finely chopped garlic, one with the green germ included, the other, without the green germ. Then I waited two hours for them to meld and take on the flavor of the garlic.

As a life-long green-germ plucker, I was surprised at the difference that it made. The garlic mayonnaise made without the green sprouts was lively and garlicky. The one with the green germ was just as garlicky, but had a bite and then a hot “burn” at the end when I swallowed it, which I found disagreeable. If I didn’t know that it had the green germ in it, I just might have assumed that was the garlic. But the difference was definitely there.

Garlic Mayonnaise

I also wanted to try it cooked. I thought about making chicken with forty cloves of garlic and comparing them side-by-side. But I didn’t know if I had the patience to peel eighty cloves of garlic, so I made two small ramekins of pasta with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 gram thinly sliced garlic (how I prefer it for frying since it doesn’t burn as quickly as minced garlic – especially if you start it in oil that isn’t hot), and a touch of salt.

Garlic

With the green dot marking which was which, I tasted them blind and although it’s hard to tell with pin-point accuracy, due to the garlic taking on a bit of color as I fried it (which masks some of the taste), the two pastas tasted almost the same; the browned garlic didn’t taste different in either version.

Garlic

Garlic will be different depending on season, variety, and a host of other factors. But when using garlic raw, you should definitely remove the green germ. For cooking, even though it didn’t make as much of a difference in my little taste test, I still advise plucking out the green sprout from the center, which I will continue to do, mostly because it brings me the same joy as cleaning the lint filter on my dryer. And even if you’re peeling eighty cloves, you’ll probably want to get in on the fun and pluck them out, too.

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139 comments

  • jane muggleton
    January 24, 2014 11:13am

    well researched professor lebovitz..seriously though..it’s great to know that taking the green bit out is not just a culinary myth..jane

  • Christine
    January 24, 2014 11:56am

    Years ago, I watched a lovely French man made me ratatouille. He removed the germ and said it was so we wouldn’t still be tasting garlic the next day.

  • Katie
    January 24, 2014 11:57am

    Ever since Dorie Greenspan said to take the green germ out of garlic, I’ve done so (kind of
    begrudgingly though). Now that I’ve seen proof I won’t grumble so much however. Very scientific of you….

  • January 24, 2014 12:02pm

    Thanks for this! I always enjoy comparative cooking because where else can you truly measure the standard. I enjoy it with and without the green. Although in Korea there is a side dish ( banchan) where they serve just the green shoots but probably when there are a few inches longer that the ones show in the picture and it is delicious on its own seasoned with soy and chili.

  • January 24, 2014 12:56pm

    Your experiment corroborates what I have been told all my life: if you’re eating raw garlic, remove the sprout, otherwise you will ‘repeat it’, which gives you heartburn. If you’re using it cooked, you can leave the sprout. But I had never taken the trouble to see if it was true, I simply did it!
    I hardly find the all white, just harvested cloves here. Big cities are bad for good produce sometimes.

  • John S.
    January 24, 2014 1:38pm

    Thanks for the great tip!

    Here in New York it is becoming difficult to find garlic that is not a product of China. I’m concerned that soil quality control there, or other environmental factors, may not be as tight as in other countries. I try to buy garlic grown in Gilroy California when I find it. Is Chinese garlic sold in France and are you aware of differences and/or concerns in using this?

    • January 24, 2014 3:59pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, there is Chinese garlic in France and I don’t buy it for the reason you mentioned. If the origin isn’t marked, you can often tell if garlic is from China because they burr-down the hairy root end to remove any and all dirt, so it’s suitable for export. Fortunately there is plenty of garlic grown in France and in Europe to choose from here.

  • Sonna
    January 24, 2014 1:38pm

    To me the main point in removing the germ has always been, that you do not smell as strongly of garlic after consumption, when you do (and yes I tried it both ways to test the theory).
    As I really do not like still tasting garlic in my mouth the day after consumption and would like to spare others from a more “smelly” self as well, I have removed the germ for quite some time. As this effect exists no matter if the garlic is cooked or raw I always remove (and yes, it is immensely satisfying to do so :) )
    Well done on the research, David!
    Sonna

    • January 24, 2014 4:00pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve always done it but when my friend said that Marcella Hazan didn’t do it, I thought I’d put it to the test. (Granted she likely cooked the garlic, where I found it didn’t make all that much of a difference.)

  • January 24, 2014 1:44pm

    Absolutely true! I have avoided using raw garlic for a long time, until some years ago I was told about plucking out the green sprout, and it made all the difference. I must admit that for my pot recipes, such as moussaka or dolmades, I have been encouraged not to do so (specially by my mother!). I will try it, though. Thank you for such an enlightening post.

  • January 24, 2014 1:55pm

    How interesting! I’ve often wondered. Thank you for this. Though I have to wonder, if sprouting things is supposed to be healthy, why not garlic? might it be worth the burp? Either way, I prefer a sprout-less clove. Mostly because I prefer the fresher clean taste of one before it germs. Thanks again!

  • January 24, 2014 2:29pm

    I’ve always wondered, but I’m still not going to do it! I’ve never noticed a difference, though, honestly, I just can’t be bothered! It’s enough that I remembered to add it in the first place, isn’t it?

  • January 24, 2014 2:41pm

    Thank you for the experiment. I just thought they were being neurotic.

  • January 24, 2014 3:04pm

    Thanks for testing this one out for us! I’ve never removed it, but now I’m keen to try and see if we can tell the difference.

  • January 24, 2014 4:11pm

    As lazy as I am with such things, I usually do remove the green. Thanks for testing…It’s nice to know!

  • January 24, 2014 4:15pm

    #1. Thank goodness I woke up today.

    #2. This old lady learned something new!

    #3. Muchas gracias mi amigo!

    :)

  • Ed
    January 24, 2014 4:18pm

    You complained about peeling garlic and I had the same problem until I discovered a fast, effective method in a You Tube video. Go to You Tube and enter “peeling garlic” in the search field. I don’t have access to You Tube right now or I would send you the link.

  • L
    January 24, 2014 4:26pm

    Yes, I agree with Ed on the peeling garlic comment – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d3oc24fD-c – it’s probably one of the best kitchen tricks I’ve ever learned. Love garlic so much…

  • January 24, 2014 4:46pm
    David Lebovitz

    Ed and L: I tried that method (putting unpeeled cloves of garlic between two stainless bowls and shaking really hard for seconds) and it didn’t work for me…which was odd because it does in the video. A few noted elsewhere that you have to use a certain kind of garlic, but not sure what kind – or how it works. But I should probably try it again…then get cracking on that chicken with 40-80 cloves of garlic!

  • PaulaR
    January 24, 2014 5:27pm

    The steel bowl shaking method works for me, but I’ve noticed it doesn’t work as well with organic garlic (the peel seems much stickier).

  • LJ
    January 24, 2014 5:27pm

    Wow. I must admit that I had never heard of removing the germ from garlic in all my years of cooking (in Australia). The first time I came across it was when I started my Diplome at Le Cordon Bleu and the chefs kept telling us to do it. I seriously just put it down to some old school technique that was enshrined in their curriculum and they all just did it because they were supposed to.

    So this was very interesting for me to discover!

    Also – at the restaurant where I do my stage they do not remove the germ, BUT they did teach me the excellent bulk garlic peeling trick between two bowls. It works!

  • Jake Sterling
    January 24, 2014 5:31pm

    Actually, I prefer removing the lint from my dryer filter.

  • January 24, 2014 5:46pm

    I had always wondered about the green bits but never bothered to investigate–now I feel compelled to do my own taste test to see if I can detect the difference too!

  • Rosemarie Rauzino-Heller
    January 24, 2014 5:47pm

    Marcella Hazan was not the only fine cook not to remove the germ from the garlic. Jacques Pepin, a renowned chef, has said on several of his programs that he never removes it. I would think that home-grown garlic or just-dried garlic would have a milder germ than store-bought.

  • Cecile
    January 24, 2014 5:54pm

    I was just wondering about this last night yet again! It’s almost as if you read my mind, David. THANK you for putting an end to the endless questioning in my head!

  • Nywoman
    January 24, 2014 5:58pm

    I have just read that using a cocktail shaker is equal to two bowls in peeling garlic.
    The bowl method didn’t work for me since I don’t have two of the same size. If I need to peel a large amount I nuke the cloves for 5 seconds and it works great.

  • January 24, 2014 5:59pm

    I’ve always removed that stem, but didn’t know it made such a difference raw. Thanks for taking time to test this out. I love learning trivial things that can make a BIG difference.

  • Nora Signer
    January 24, 2014 6:00pm

    Another timely article David, Thank you! I’ve been thinking about this, probably because it’s the season for the green germ, and have been removing it/them. Also wondering if it’s all germs, green or not… and you’ve answered that question. Thank’s for the distinction between raw and cooked.

    There is a tool made for peeling garlic which needs little storage space. It’s a silicone tube with slanted pinked edges, 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 5 1/4 inches long. You put the cloves in the tube, press down and roll. It separates the skin from the clove, but does not do 40 cloves at one time, more like 5 or 6. And I confess I rarely use it for only a few cloves at a time, but I’m now encouraged to try Sally Darr’s Chicken Roasted with Garlic Cloves which requires 4 whole heads! Has anyone tried it?

    Send me your address David and I’ll send you one all the way from New York City. Regards!

  • Kathleen
    January 24, 2014 6:04pm

    Watch this YouTube for peeling garlic. Works very well!!!
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0d3oc24fD-c&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D0d3oc24fD-c

  • Parisbreakfast
    January 24, 2014 6:05pm

    The easiest way to peel garlic is to take a sturdy mug and give it a good smash.
    The peel will open like a flower..course your coffee mug may be to odoriferous as a result but it works a charm.

  • January 24, 2014 6:13pm

    Very good to know — I’ve been wondering this for years. Usually my deciding factor has been whether I’m cooking just for us at home or if I’m sharing the dish with someone else (and they’ll see the green germ!).

  • January 24, 2014 6:16pm

    Very good to know — I’ve been wondering this for years. Usually my deciding factor has been whether I’m cooking just for us at home or if I’m sharing the dish with someone else (and they’ll see the green germ!).

  • Amy P
    January 24, 2014 6:32pm

    Thanks for doing the test! I’ve always wondered. To be honest I might leave the green germ for some cooked applications but it’s still good to know, and definitely good knowledge for the fish taco marinade I’m in the middle of making!

  • January 24, 2014 6:38pm

    I just had the same issue come up with some garlic I used to make hummus. What a well thought out experiment. I have always been a green germ plucker but now I know why I should choose to continue to do so.

  • January 24, 2014 6:41pm

    Many thanks for settling this question for me. I usually always removed it instinctively but was never sure if it was necessary or not. Nice to know I haven’t been wasting my time and garlic for nothing!

  • Sherryn
    January 24, 2014 6:47pm

    I fall in love with you a little more each blog…

    My husband always “forgets” to remove the green germ, inspite of years of requesting that he do so. Having it on authority that it makes a difference will, hopefully, now make a difference! Thank you!

  • jefflh
    January 24, 2014 6:48pm

    I take a different approach. I simply plant the garlic.

  • Inka
    January 24, 2014 6:48pm

    Very interesting! I always take it out but then I really like uniformity in color in my ingredients.

    Question : what type of pasta did you use for test #2? It looks very intriguing

  • January 24, 2014 6:52pm

    David, you bring me joy every time., thanks again for making my day.

  • Emma
    January 24, 2014 6:57pm

    That is cooking investigation !!

    But being a Tarn native (French “département where Lautrec city is) I can gurantee anybody that Lautrec garlic is by far really really better than any other garlic, especially used raw. I would never ever cook with another garlic ! Well my ancestors would curse me until I die

  • January 24, 2014 7:02pm

    Love “because it brings me the same joy as cleaning the lint filter on my dryer”. So true!

  • Leah
    January 24, 2014 7:13pm

    Thanks so much for this. I started removing the green germ for raw recipes when I found that my hummus had an unpleasant and somewhat bitter garlic flavour. Removing the green core did the trick.

    I know what you mean about the joy of removing it, as well as cleaning a lint catcher. :-)

  • January 24, 2014 7:13pm

    It’s so great that someone actually tested this “kitchen myth”! I’ve been wondering about those green germs and their evilness for years now. Mostly, I’ve been too lazy to remove them but this post may change it (ehm, unless there are 80 cloves to peel).

  • Gabrielle
    January 24, 2014 7:16pm

    Thank you! I pluck the green germ too, and when I started doing that, my husband and I noticed that we don’t reek of garlic as badly. Not just in terms of garlic breath. My husband used to sweat garlic through his pores even the next day after eating it. It was quite nasty. lol Since I’ve started plucking the germ, this foul phenomenon stopped occurring! So for this reason, I will definitely still keep doing this!

  • Maurine Fischel
    January 24, 2014 7:16pm

    this came up at dinner a decade ago during a 3 day cooking class with Diana Kennedy in Zitaquaro, Mexico. The next morning she greeted me with a photocopied page from Joel Robuchon’s cookbook addressing this question. You may be happy to know his conclusion was the similar to yours: if eaten raw, you must remove the germ because of it’s bitter taste; if it is to be cooked, though, he said to leave it in.

  • Helen
    January 24, 2014 7:18pm

    I have heard of some cultures pickling the green and/or the clove with the green n

  • January 24, 2014 7:23pm

    As a high school biology teacher, I love that you put this to the test…in a scientific fashion. Thanks for sharing – I have always wondered about this, particularly since I have been too lazy to remove the green germ…

  • Lydia
    January 24, 2014 7:25pm

    Thank you for clearing this up. I am often plagued with indecision when I see the green, but I recall being told that I should use the head at all if it shows green. That would then leave me without garlic to use for the recipe at hand, because I can’t just run out in search of fresh garlic on a whim. So now I know!

  • January 24, 2014 7:26pm

    I love that you did this experimenting and shared! I have always pulled out the green ‘seed’ but never really knew if it made a difference (or if it even meant that the garlic had gone ‘to seed’) and NOW I do!

    Thanks, David. I always enjoy your posts!!!!

  • January 24, 2014 7:27pm

    My family makes salted cod for xmas. The original recipe is from my Spanish-Lebanese side of the family. This recipe calls for a lot of garlic, and growing up I remember my grandfather sitting at the kitchen table peeling garlic cloves for days, while my grandmother and others helped cleaning the fish. My grandfather would separate the garlic cloves with the green germ in a pile and those will be used first to cook. By the time the tomato sauce and other ingredients went in to finish the sofrito, the garlics with the green germ were a mush mixed with yellow onions and shallots. A second batch of garlic was added for finishing the dish and this time it was exclusively cloves without the germ. I guess, this recipe confirms what you write. Probably for cooking when the garlic flavor melds with other things it is ok to use the green germ, however, when the garlic is going to be a discernible flavor of the dish then is best to remove the germ. I often don’t take off the germ for making sofrito. Thanks for sharing this. Abrazo quesero.

  • Suolsan
    January 24, 2014 7:33pm

    I don’t always remove the germ except when I’m using the garlic raw or in a mild sauce or aioli. I discovered the bitterness the very first time I used a clove with the green germ that had developed. The crushed clove even smelled stronger and more pungent, so I looked it up online where I learned that it was the germ making the difference so removing it was advised. When I’m making a meat braise with wine and other strong flavorings, I find it doesn’t matter so I’ve used the recipe as my guide for whether I need to remove or not. I don’t slice garlic for anything so I don’t have that difficulty to work around. How do you deal with the germ and slicing?

  • January 24, 2014 7:40pm

    Interestingly enough I’ve always suggested to pregnant women to remove the green as it would be less upsetting to digestion. Great post.

  • Jane Ridolfi
    January 24, 2014 7:47pm

    LOVE the comment about the lint in the dryer – that too is one of my little joys in life!

  • Cathy
    January 24, 2014 7:51pm

    What if it’s not green, before it’s sprouted? I once went out with a chef who said to always take out the inner part of the garlic. Must admit I don’t usually use garlic that has sprouted like that.

  • Carren
    January 24, 2014 8:00pm

    Perfect timing! This morning, when making a marinade in prep for dinner tonight, I was JUST — absolutely JUST! — thinking about how much I wish I had never heard that I needed to remove that nasty, bitter green germ from garlic. Cooking with garlic was SO much easier before. Just smash it and chop it up. Done! Then I thought, I’ve never seen PROOF that this really makes a difference, so why am I doing this? And then… VOILA!! I open my email on my phone (the garlic still sat on the cutting board minus the green germ), and there’s your wonderful post. A great start in the morning: I get a quick surge of thrill seeing that there is a new post from you AND I learn my efforts are not in vain! Perfect timing! Thank you! I’ve forwarded this to many friends. (Let me add though, this chore is still a pain in the butt!)

  • January 24, 2014 8:08pm

    Congrats for your posts, always great. I was always told the germ wasn’t digested as well. And also my god father, who lives in Provence, eats one raw clove every morning, makes life longer he says. And he’s 96… To finish, I bought this silicone tube I roll the cloves in, and it works just fine to peel off the skin – though not the germ ;-)

  • Antonia
    January 24, 2014 8:23pm

    I take out all the germ, green or not, unless the clove has virtually none, when fixing aioli. David and all who do, are absolutely right. But I also do it for gazpacho, ajo blanco, or any other preparation that requires raw garlic. The next trick is to then calculate how much, since some heads are far stronger than others. So if your dish allows it, start out conservatively, then add more if your palate desires a stronger taste. Raw garlic goes a long way. When you’re cooking it, it’s difficult to add too much!

  • January 24, 2014 8:37pm

    That would be what I would expect as a result. We grow our own garlic and always end up with some sprouting by the end of last year’s stash. By March, I mostly only use for cooking as it does seem to get a little strong and bitter used raw by then.

  • Carla
    January 24, 2014 8:38pm

    I wonder about the vitamin & mineral content in each?

  • January 24, 2014 8:40pm

    Thank you for this interesting post. I TOTALLY agree with you, as I have also found that removing the green germ makes garlic more digestible. Best wishes.

  • kayenne
    January 24, 2014 8:45pm

    For the bowl trick, I think well-dried garlic is the key, as the skin is stiffer, thus, cracks more easily. This would be a concern with fresher bulbs.

    As for the green germ… I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that, as most garlic we get here are well-dried already… either the smaller, more pungent local produce or the larger, mild china ones. But good to know… I do encounter some local red onions sprouting… dad took the last one to plant… any comments on sprouted onions?

  • Karna
    January 24, 2014 8:49pm

    Just wanted to say that where i am from we use something called green garlic which has the full sprout and it add a fine zing to any dish especially curries and deviled eggs.

  • Frederick Wilson
    January 24, 2014 8:56pm

    The taste of the green germ will vary with the type of garlic. Red and purple varieties will be stronger, more peppery, while the white varieties (those we see in stores in the USA most commonly) will be milder with the “elephant” garlic being mildest of those generally available.

  • Laura
    January 24, 2014 8:58pm

    Have you seen this trick to peeling the entire head of garlic? I have learned two slick tricks about garlic this week! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0abnwTGeAiM

  • January 24, 2014 8:59pm

    Thanks for doing the leg-work on this for us all, David. Under your tutelage, I’ve been a green plucker for quite some time. In the past, aioli made with fresh garlic often gave me heartburn, but I’ve found that the removal of the green bit prevents this – that alone makes it worth the effort for me.

  • January 24, 2014 9:04pm

    I’m slightly chagrinned to admit to using already peeled imported from China/Vietnam garlic most of the year in my cafe – esp after 2 years at C.P. w Joyce Goldstein…however, the cooks all know to trim the root/core off before chopping and that seems to me to make a huge difference. In the months when we can use fresh whole heads they know to watch for the sprouts but to always take that root away. Always look forward to your posts David. Cheers

  • Sharon
    January 24, 2014 9:05pm

    I can’t wait to try to peel garlic between two bowls!

    I once removed the germ from about a jillion garlic cloves, well, okay, 44, when I made 10 gallons of red lentil and sausage soup for a homeless-feeding program. I will never do that again – degerm that quantity of garlic, that is – and I feel sure it would not be noticed with lots of other flavors going on – wine/wine substitute [half balsamic vinegar, half purple grape juice, surprisingly adequate], kielbasa, veggies.

  • January 24, 2014 9:07pm

    Whenever I get sprouted garlic I just walk it out back and stick it in a corner of the herb garden, or in a pot I have in my kitchen that right now only houses an avocado seed. Nothing like growing your own.

  • anna*
    January 24, 2014 9:18pm

    I had no idea about the reasoning behind removing the green bits but I hardly ever use garlic without cooking it (mostly just guacamole). Thanks as always for an informative post!

  • june2
    January 24, 2014 9:26pm

    I don’t eat garlic, but why don’t people just taste the sprout and see if it’s bitter or too strong?

  • Diana Leon
    January 24, 2014 9:27pm

    I am sold on the silicon tube for cleaning cloves of garlic. I just pop them in one at a time and a quick roll on the counter does the trick. Pop one out, insert another. 40 cloves would be done in short order. Also the tube cleans easily with a quick rinse if done immediately. I’m convinced one could hang wallpaper with garlic juice once it is set. Delighted to know about the green germ as I have never taken the time to test. When I got the tube it was free and I expected it to be another useless idea but was happily surprised with the results.

  • January 24, 2014 9:28pm

    Thanks for doing the taste test on this for us! I teach cooking classes and have always told people to remove the germ if you will be using the garlic raw. I haven’t been so particular about removing it if the garlic is to be cooked. Now I will be able to point people to your taste test. Also, in the future, I’ll make the effort to remove the germ even for cooked dishes! Thanks again.

  • Jess
    January 24, 2014 9:30pm

    Thank you for giving me the evidence I needed to convince my husband on this matter. He has been a skeptic. :)

  • January 24, 2014 9:49pm

    Very interesting. I always remove the green germ, but now, when I’ll cook it, I won’t. In the south west of France, we have aillet (young garlic). It’s very good

  • Carin
    January 24, 2014 9:55pm

    I am curious if you did a taste test of both with the green sprout plucked. My thought is perhaps, the bulb that had a green sprout to begin with took on a different flavor throughout the rest of the clove even with the sprout removed? Maybe more bitter? Is there a difference in the white part of the pre and post sprout? Or once removing the green sprout it once again becomes equal to the non sprouted clove?

  • Joanne
    January 24, 2014 10:13pm

    David, long time follower, first time commenter here to say – thank you! Picking out the green sprout is more than just ritual and myth!

  • Ian Rowley
    January 24, 2014 10:36pm

    Hi David,
    A really interesting article for garlic lovers. I agree with you about the green shoot.
    Ian

  • Sandra Myers
    January 24, 2014 10:48pm

    Having a head if garlic with the green germ sprouts that I needed for a recipe , I separated the cloves and cut the sprouts. I didn’t think they were necessary and disposed of them. Other older cloves, I took outside and buried in a pot, curious to see if they’d grow, covered with winter protection. I would never have thought to eat the sprouts on the garlic.

  • Rita the garlic educator
    January 24, 2014 10:49pm

    Remember that the garlic clove is a plant, and the pale, green sprout is the first leaf of the plant that will penetrate the soil. It has not yet been touched by the sunlight that will induce photosynthesis that will produce the carbohydrates (sugars) that make it palatable. When the clove is planted, the sprout grows to become the leaves and pseudostem of the plant. When 12 inches tall, harvest the entire thing for green garlic. Or, harvest and use the green leaves as you would green onions. When chopped into 2-inch lengths and sautéed in butter with early spring asparagus it is heavenly.

  • January 24, 2014 11:04pm

    So good to know! Love these kinds of test/side by side experiments in the kitchen. Probably am still too lazy to be bothered to take out the green part unless its a special occasion ;)

  • January 24, 2014 11:08pm

    What an interesting experiment! :) I’ve never noticed the difference in taste but I remove the green germs carefully for the sake of my own health. If someone have gall blader issues they should avoid eating the germs – and there will be no problem with garlic anymore :)

  • January 24, 2014 11:41pm

    Thanks David! Like everybody else, I’ve always wondered what the difference was in leaving or taking the germ out, but was far too lazy or unmotivated to test it out. Now, we all know!!

  • January 24, 2014 11:48pm

    I have always wondered about this, and hesitated to put it to the test. In fact for the longest time I didn’t even know what the green stem was. Thanks for this awesome tip!

  • January 25, 2014 12:00am

    My Italian grandmas and mom always said – “If your garlic has a green sprout in the center, it isn’t very fresh”. But if that’s all you can find, pluck it out, because it tends to be somewhat bitter! Glad you agree, I do respect your expertise! If you’ve ever lived in an area where you can acquire fresh picked garlic (mainly in the summers), there’s nothing like it – the taste and texture are amazing!

  • Lisa
    January 25, 2014 12:29am

    I have always wondered about this. Sometimes I remove the germ, sometimes I don’t – but I have never had the patience to put it to the test. Thank you for doing it for us, David!

  • Gavrielle
    January 25, 2014 12:33am

    I must admit I don’t remove the germ, but I always feel guilty. Does that count?:).

    I get around the peeling problem by using a Zyliss garlic crusher which does an excellent job even with the peel on. I take your point, David, about crushed garlic burning more easily, but now I add it later in the cooking process instead of with the other aromatics at the beginning. I know this is culinary heresy, but not only does it stop the garlic from burning, it apparently preserves more of the “good stuff” in the garlic that lowers blood pressure/protects the heart.

  • January 25, 2014 1:00am

    Great post about garlic (love the scientific method) and I’ve enjoyed all the comments too, video links included – what fun.

    I grow my own garlic in southern Ontario and every summer I pull up fat bulbs bulging with plump cloves. It’s a hard-necked variety and I have found that by leaving the stalks long and allowing the garlic to dry in a shaded airy spot for a generous length of time, the garlic bulbs last healthily well into spring.

    From now on I’ll be sure to remove the green sprouting part of the bulb when using raw garlic in a recipe.

    I just wanted to share that when I cut the dried stem end off a garlic clove and then cut the clove in half, the skin just slips right off – no bowl shaking required, although that looks like an entertaining activity for the young-uns.

  • Angel
    January 25, 2014 1:10am

    What a great post! I have always wondered about this.

  • January 25, 2014 1:39am

    David, I’m so glad you did this post.

    A nutritionist told me over twenty years ago to remove the green germ from garlic, and I’ve done so religiously every since. Garlic sometimes bothers my stomach, but not when I cook and eat it at home.

    So for me, more than a flavor issue, it’s been a digestive one. Now I’m even more solidly convinced.

  • Jessica
    January 25, 2014 1:52am

    I make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic quite frequently. I sit down in front of the tv, put vinyl gloves on and goes on to peel. Find it quite relaxing, but then I am one of those who enjoys doing laundry and handcrush cardamom (starting with the green pod).
    A friend of mine doesn’t peel garlic for chicken with 40 cloves at all. She tosses them right in there with the chicken and then they steam inside the skin.

    I’ll remove the green germ from now on. I never have before. I figured – as Marcella Hazan did – that it’s just a new garlic.

  • Sue
    January 25, 2014 2:01am

    Interesting post, David! And once again, comments also provide information. I do the two bowl method for peeling, as I have two 1quart bowls that do a fine job with just a few cloves. Now I need to get another head of garlic to test the method with a whole head!

  • valentine
    January 25, 2014 3:04am

    Wait, you have a dryer? In Paris?

  • January 25, 2014 4:24am

    As a scientist (and food lover), I’m so happy that you did a proper experiment to address the question in a scientific manner. Well done Monsieur Lebovitz !!!

  • Candice
    January 25, 2014 5:29am

    Have you tried the garlic-peeling trick in which you put a head of garlic in a stainless steel bowl, cover that bowl with another, similarily sized stainless steel bowl (makes an egg shape), and shake the the bowls very vigorously? All, or nearly all, of the cloves will be peeled. It’s great for recipes such as roasted chicken with 40 garlic cloves.

  • January 25, 2014 5:54am

    David, I’m so glad you did this. I’ve wondered for years and never thought of doing a taste test. Now I know to continue having the satisfaction of plucking the green germ. Thank youM

  • Balisand
    January 25, 2014 8:29am

    Thanks for the test, David, and thanks to those who posted the YouTube clip, great! But if anyone wants to peel just a couple of cloves of garlic, try lightly crushing them with the flat side of a broad knife. Peel generally falls off, and any remaining is easy to pick off. Further tip – if appropriate to the recipe, put some salt on the garlic cloves and crush them a bit more, then it’s easy to fine-chop them. Occasionally here (Sydney) we can buy fresh green garlic stems, about 12 inches long, neatly bundled. Great tossed into a stir-fry, but be sparing at first.

  • Beth Elon
    January 25, 2014 11:45am

    This was really interesting … I started plucking out the green some years ago when I was told by a chef I respected that using the newly developing hard core and green fledgling could cause stomach problems as well .. is there some verification for this? At any rate it convinced me to remove!

  • January 25, 2014 1:34pm

    David,
    Thanks for doing us all such a great service. I’ve been dogged in all my books about removing the green germ for taste and texture reasons, and now you’ve backed me up (as usual)! Great job.

  • Margarita
    January 25, 2014 2:58pm

    Cleaning out lint filters! Yes!!

  • Lynne
    January 25, 2014 3:27pm

    Thanks for clearing that up David!! I’ve always wondered about that!!

  • January 25, 2014 3:56pm

    I recently attended a demonstration by Jacques Pépin at the International Culinary Center in NY and asked him this question. He said that he used to remove the germ but was convinced by a Chinese chef while in China that it was unnecessary. This was in the context of cooked food, not raw. Based on your research I will remove the germ for raw garlic applications and leave it for cooked.

  • CoffeeGrounded
    January 25, 2014 4:33pm

    My compost pile is thanking you for the greenery. I have decided the green part of the onions are headed into the bin, too. My worms will be feisty by spring. They’ll have dragon breath. Don’t anyone light a match in the garden. Poof!

  • January 25, 2014 4:34pm

    I was going to chime in on what Pépin said, but since it has been said, my $.02 is – when you are finished handling the garlic, rub your hands on stainless steel and water. Your hands will not smell of garlic. For some reason the stainless steel neutralizes the odor.

    M~

  • January 25, 2014 4:43pm

    I am so glad that you addressed this. I always wonder about it, but never take the time to do a side by side!

  • Rochelle
    January 25, 2014 7:13pm

    Thanks for posting this experiment. Re green garlic, its season is beginning here in Israel too. Since the entire thick long succulent green stalks come with the green garlic here, I use them rather than throw them away. I cut them into chunks of several cm long, and place them in a roasting pan for a chicken to sit upon while it roasts in the oven with onion, herb sprigs like thyme & rosemary. I stuff the chicken with more chunks of the thick garlic stalks, along with lemon & onion &herbs. This adds nice flavor. I discard the chunks of garlic stalks afterwards.

  • January 25, 2014 8:08pm

    Ever since I lived in Italy I’ve ALWAYS removed the green part of garlic…because it is “bitter” but always wondered if it really made a difference. Thanks for doing the work for me ;-)

  • January 25, 2014 8:35pm

    I love this and shared it with our garlic-loving Facebook fans. David, next time you’re in the U.S., try some heirloom garlic from a small grower. The different flavor profiles will knock your socks off.

  • January 25, 2014 10:00pm

    I’ve never even seen that!

  • January 25, 2014 10:38pm

    Nice tips!

  • Judy
    January 25, 2014 11:30pm

    Hi David,
    Todd Coleman at Saveur mag has a way of peeling huge numbers of cloves in minutes that can work well depending on your garlic. Search Saveur How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds
    When I tried it recently I was blown away – even tho only around half my cloves peeled easily, it was still extraordinary! Cheers, Judy in Melbourne

  • Simian
    January 25, 2014 11:41pm

    I always remove the inner shoot, even if it;s not gone green yet.
    The main reason is that it can upset your stomach , especially when raw.

  • January 26, 2014 1:13am

    Thanks for conducting this experiment! I always took off the green germ and now I know I’ll always continue to do so.

  • SUZANNE VADNAIS
    January 26, 2014 1:54am

    Thank you so much David. I’ve always wondered about that. You really keep us on your toes. Suzanne

  • Ardis Morrow
    January 26, 2014 3:09am

    For goodness sake, you are really serious about learning the French language
    but also about being an excellent French chef. I still use the garlic seasoning ffrom the
    bulk foods dept at Central Market. Any hope for me?

  • Molly
    January 26, 2014 6:47am

    Makes sense. Once that green guy shoots up, he’s using all the sugar in the garlic for his own benefit.

  • Lisa
    January 26, 2014 12:04pm

    Does the same apply to onions as well?

  • Julie Kinnear
    January 26, 2014 2:42pm

    I never really took the time to remove these germs and many times wondered how come garlic taste can be so different from one case to another… Thank you for the help!

  • Lupo
    January 26, 2014 6:53pm

    I can’t always get two types of garlic to make a comparison, I’m questioning whether the germ affects the entire clove’s taste? If you made the same comparison test with aioli using a clove with the germ removed and one without germ to begin with would the results be different?

    • January 26, 2014 8:31pm
      David Lebovitz

      I used garlic from the same head; one had the green germ removed and other example was made with the green germ still intact.

  • TM
    January 26, 2014 8:51pm

    I’ve always taken out the green germ from the garlic, don’t recall how or why I knew to do this. David, I get the same satisfaction from cleaning the lint filter on my dryer as well!

  • Fred Rickson
    January 26, 2014 9:46pm

    Disagree. Years ago (actually twice) I removed a bunch of green shoots and chewed them. They taste like garlic chives…nothing wrong with that.

  • January 26, 2014 10:37pm

    Oh I am glad! I’ve always said this too, and my husband huffs and puffs about it, as he’s the one who does most of the cooking but he does humour me and removes the green…

    It’s good to know there is a difference, though also helpful to know it’s not so much of an issue when cooking the garlic as using it raw.

  • LWood
    January 27, 2014 1:23am

    Ah ha! I love to grow garlic, and we try to make it through the year with the harvest (hardest in April-May when we are anxiously waiting for the garlic flowers/scapes, and last fall’s harvest is starting to shoot – if there is any left). So I have wondered about that green shoot. I’ve tried lots of varieties, and the one that is “red” grows (and tastes) the best. I’m thinking it was red russian, but I am going to look for the l’Ail Rose de Lautrec.

  • Peter in Tokyo
    January 27, 2014 5:48am

    The `germ` you refer to is an emerging scape. (BTW The scape at full growth is a delicacy). Garlic needs cold to grow/trigger. This shows the garlic is `waking up` from winter slumber. (Happens naturally around autumn. Sometimes mid-year if garlic is stored in the refrigerator and then left at room temperature & gets fooled.). I don`t find the green bit bitter. But, the quality of the clove can suffer: become a bit pithy as all the goodness goes into the emerging scape. Garlic is a fascinating & hardy plant. Peter

  • Juanita
    January 27, 2014 7:08am

    Thanks for this experiment. Dorie Greenspan says to remove the green germ, my first encounter with this issue. Now I know what she means and why she recommends it. I appreciate your enlightening all of us.

  • Mandy
    January 27, 2014 12:05pm

    Lisa- I was wondering the same thing re: green stalks having grown in a white onion…

  • Clara
    January 27, 2014 3:26pm

    I’ve always heard you should take the sprouts out of center of garlic cloves because they are bitter; depending on how lazy I am (or not) i usually do it. All the garlic I get here in Massachusetts (USA) is storage garlic. I like the tip about how to neutralize garlic smell on your hands. Does anyone have an methods that work for cleaning garlic (and onion) smells off of wooden cutting boards?

  • Helen
    January 27, 2014 8:21pm

    Great garlic tips! To Clara: I rub a cut lemon or lime over my wooden board and air dry it to mask the garlic aroma.
    I raise a lot of garlic varieties since I love the flavor nuances (also shallots and onions) that each bring to food. I plant any stored garlic with a green sprouting stem–ever since tasting one years ago–yuck. Or just throw it away since I’m garlic rich.
    Have you tried garlic chives? One of my favorites herbs when just a hint of garlic is needed.

  • January 27, 2014 9:37pm

    Interesting! I’ve always wondered about that too. Coming from a family of Italian cooks, we never plucked the green part. You’ve presented a good argument to do so in the future though. Thanks for the tip!

  • Fred Rickson
    January 28, 2014 1:53am

    Amazing….apparently there are no cooks out there that actually taste something. David is a good guy, but try a taste for yourselves. No wonder the Food Channel has viewers. Gheeeeeseh.

  • Dorothee
    January 30, 2014 9:02pm

    I was wondering about another garlic question – is it okay to put garlic through one of the those presses? I’ve heard that this will also make the garlic bitter and that it should only be minced by hand with a knife (or in a food processor). Have you heard of this as well? Thanks to anyone who can help me on! Dorothee

  • Nosher
    January 31, 2014 11:16pm

    Thank you!

    I’ve been taking them out, but now I won’t feel silly about it.

  • Staci
    February 1, 2014 6:02pm

    I think the sprout gives the garlic a floral flavor, for that reason I always pluck them out.

  • Marie
    February 4, 2014 2:14pm

    Hi david
    Effectivement , en France, on dit toujours qu’il faut enlever le germe mais j’ai toujours entendu dire que c’était pour des raisons de digestion et non pas d’amertume… Mais j’avoue ne jamais avoir testé en gardant le germe….

  • Angela
    February 5, 2014 7:34pm

    Ah, a clean lint trap! Love the peeling process.

  • Savannagal
    February 5, 2014 11:20pm

    Interesting. I’ve never removed the green shoot and absolutely love it raw. I guess it all depends on one’s tastes.

  • mousepudding
    February 10, 2014 8:26pm

    David, thanks so much for posting this. Always wondered about this issue and always just removed the green bit blindly without really knowing if it was just a superstition or not. Vindication at last!

  • ault
    February 13, 2014 9:29pm

    A Spanish grandmother (not mine) told me to remove the germ (even if not green) if the garlic was to be used raw. Supposed to prevent “repetitions”.

  • Marny CA
    February 17, 2014 5:27am

    Although I just now learned about that little green thingy, I always took it out before cooking the garlic. Glad to know I do something correctly.

    I love garlic … escargot is a fav of mine.

    Nice to have found your site.