An easy way to add a little extra flavor and nutrition to your home-cooked meal is by including garlic. Cooks, however, often find that their garlic bulbs have grown sprouts after sitting unused for too long on the counter or in the fridge. Knowing what those sprouts are and what you can do with them makes it possible to extend the life of your garlic.
What A Sprout Is
The garlic bulb that you buy in a store is actually the base of the plant, which roots underground, much like radishes, carrots and potatoes. Because the garlic plant does not produce seeds, the plant propagates via the cloves, which are the individual sections of a bulb. The sprouts that grow out of each individual clove are the beginnings of the shoot that would grow out of the ground and become the exposed, leafy green part of the garlic plant.
It's the Humidity That Gets You
Since garlic bulbs and cloves are basically in a state of dormancy, waiting for a chance to start growing, keeping them in a warm and humid environment induces sprouting and rooting in the cloves. Even temperatures as low as 45 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit can bring garlic out of dormancy.
Because garlic can sprout so easily, it's important to keep it in cold, dry conditions -- as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit -- if you'll be storing it for an extended period of time. These low temperatures will prevent sprouting, however, the longer you store a bulb, the shorter its dormancy period will be once you take it out of those conditions. For kitchen storage, a cool, dry, well-ventilated space is the best choice for prolonging the life of garlic bulbs.
How to Handle the Sprouts
You can still cook with sprouting garlic, though it may have lost some of its flavor. Slice the garlic in half, remove the sprout from the center and cook with the garlic as usual. Some recipes actually call for garlic sprouts, so you can make use of the plant attempting to grow on your kitchen shelf.
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