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Can Garlic Go Bad?

Can garlic go bad? Garlic is a wonderful staple to keep in your pantry. It is used in a variety of cuisines and is good for you; however, while garlic has a longer shelf life than most items found in the produce department, it can go bad. How quickly garlic goes bad is based on a variety of factors.

How long does garlic last?

The first factor in how long garlic will last is how it is packaged.

Garlic that is purchased still in its bulb form will last up to a month (sometimes longer) when stored in a cool, dark, and dry pantry.

Some stores sell garlic that has been separated and peeled. This packaging is usually in the produce refrigerated section. This is a great time saving option, but garlic in this form does need to remain refrigerated. It is also labeled with an expiration date which is usually accurate. Garlic is also packaged in a minced form. Minced garlic in oil will last up to a year in the refrigerator, but always refer to any directions or expiration dates on the package.

Garlic - can it go bad?
Image used under Creative Commons from Kevin

How do you know when garlic is bad?

If you’re wondering how to tell if garlic is bad, refer to the expiration date on the package when in doubt; however, there are a few key signs you can look for when determining if the garlic is okay to use or needs to be tossed because it has gone bad.

If you have purchased whole bulbs or peeled cloves watch out for green sprouts coming out of the top. It is not dangerous to eat, but it will cause a bitter flavor. The sprout is the creation of a new clove, so you can split the clove and remove the sprout to still use the garlic clove.

(It works the same way for sprouting onions.)

Do not eat cloves that are mushy (unless the bulb has been roasted! YUM!) or showing signs of mold growth. This will either show up as brown spots or white fuzz on the clove. If you are peeling the cloves yourself, look for indentations or dark spots on the cloves before you take the skins off. Discard the cloves. This will save time in the kitchen and ensure that any bad garlic pieces don’t accidentally get mixed in when you chop or press the garlic.

When checking jarred minced garlic, first check the expiration date and then take a sniff. If you smell anything “funny” or rancid, toss the jar.

At the store

When shopping for garlic there are a few things to keep in mind. Think about how much you use and purchase accordingly. Also, make sure you check expiration dates on packaged garlic products. Is the expiration date just around the corner? If you use a lot of garlic it may not be an issue, but if you won’t use it in time it is a waste of money. Most stores are good about removing close to expiration date off the shelves, but it never hurts to double check. When purchasing bulbs of garlic you will want to check for soft spots and discoloration.

So, can garlic go bad? Yes, it can. Cooking with garlic is a wonderful way to enhance recipes, but if you accidentally use garlic that has gone bad it will be a waste of time and money. Remember to check the quality and expiration dates of your garlic, store properly, and when in doubt throw it out!