Is green garlic safe to eat? (why is it green)

In this article, we will discuss whether green garlic is safe to eat, when is green garlic not safe to eat, the possible risks and benefits of eating green garlic, and how can you include green garlic in your diet.

Garlic can turn green due to various factors. To consider consuming green garlic and consume it safely, you should first identify the cause of the green pigment in the garlic clove.  

Is green garlic safe to eat?

Yes, green garlic may be safe to eat, and green garlic may be not safe to eat, depending on the cause of the green discolouration in the garlic.

The green colour in garlic can have three different causes: sprouting (1), enzymatic reactions (3) and growth of mould. In the case of the two first causes, garlic is safe to eat, however, garlic is not safe to eat if it is infested by a green-coloured mould (4).

The different causes of green discolouration in garlic cloves will be discussed in detail in the following sections of this article.

When is green garlic safe to eat and not?

Green garlic is safe to eat in the cases described in the table below:

Origin of the green discolouration Description Cause of the green discolouration Is it safe to eat?

Garlic sprouting

The inner part of the garlic is green or the garlic starts sprouting green The garlic clove is stored at low temperatures (4 °C), leading to several metabolic changes, the end of the dormancy state and the reduction of sucrose concentration, which induces sprouting Yes

Enzymatic reactions in the garlic clove

The non-green garlic clove is crushed and develops a green colour In specific conditions of temperature and pH, some enzymes naturally present in the garlic clove, especially the isoaliin, act on colour-free compounds called colour developers, which react with amino acids in a sequence of reactions that results in the formation of a still unknown green compound Yes

Mould growth on the garlic clove

The garlic is green due to the growth of mould on its surface Contamination and improper storage conditions favour the development of mould species on the garlic, which generate a green pigment No

What are the risks of eating green garlic?

The risk of eating green garlic occurs when the cause of the green pigmentation in the garlic is the growth of mould (4). Penicillium species produce blue-greyish or greenish pigments

The moulds that can grow on garlic cloves are various: Penicillium alii, Aspergillus alliaceous, Botrytis cinerea and others. They produce different pigments, including grey, black and red pigments and rots (4).

They also cause alterations in the texture and production of a powder (spores) and therefore it is simple to distinguish the presence of mould from the green colour caused by crushing garlic or from the sprouting.

Moulds produce toxins which may cause negative effects on health, as they have mutagenic effects. In the long term, the ingestion of toxins from moulds may lead to neurological damage and cancer (4).

What are the benefits of eating green garlic?

The benefits of eating green garlic occur through the ingestion of green-sprouted garlic (2). When garlic leaves the dormant state and sprouts, several reactions occur and change the chemical composition of the garlic (1, 2).

The benefit of eating sprouted garlic is its improved antioxidant activity. According to studies, there is an increase in the concentration of antioxidant compounds, especially sulfur-containing compounds as a consequence of sprouting (2).

Many diseases and inflammatory processes result from oxidation reactions that occur in the cells, which interfere with different biological pathways. Reactive oxygen species are the main cause of these processes (5).

Organosulfur compounds in garlic give the characteristic flavour and aroma to the plant and also can neutralise oxygen-reactive species in the body (2).

The ingestion of antioxidants from food is related to a lower risk of developing diseases, including heart disease, cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and ageing (5).

How to safely include green garlic in your diet?

To safely include green garlic in your diet, you should first inspect the garlic clove to be sure that it is safe from mould or other signs of spoilage, such as unpleasant odour, loss of texture and formation of slime (4).

Following, consume the garlic as usual, including the spice in sauces and meats as an ingredient for marination, or in any dish (6). It is important to notice that garlic has a strong flavour and its use can favour the reduction of salt in foods.

What is my recipe for green garlic?

My recipe for green garlic is cooked garbanzo beans with chopped sauteed garlic. Soak 2 cups of garbanzo beans in plenty of water for 2 to 4 hours to reduce their antinutrients.

Refresh the water, add 3 to 5 bay leaves and pressure-cook the beans for 5 minutes or till they are soft. Meanwhile, peel and chop 5 green garlic cloves and saute them with olive oil for a few minutes. Do not let them turn yellow. 

Add the sauteed green garlic to the cooked beans and add salt. Serve!


In this article, we discuss the safety of eating green garlic, the possible causes of green discolouration in the garlic, the risks of eating moulded garlic and the benefits of eating sprouted garlic.

In addition, we gave you a fine recipe for garbanzo beans with sauteed garlic!

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