Tips & Techniques

Should You Remove the Green Germ from Garlic?

I don’t remember who told me, but when I first started cooking, someone somewhere said to remove the green germ of garlic cloves. I think they said it was bitter, but I don’t remember exactly because I didn’t question it: I accepted the green germ as being bad as a fact and moved on.

Let's back up a bit, though, and explain exactly what the green germ is. When garlic is young, the germ is pale, tender, and mild. As garlic becomes older, however, that germ turns green, grows, and, as many will say, becomes bitter. The Joy of Cooking asserts that garlic with a green germ is old and shouldn’t be used. (Which I take to mean that it shouldn’t be used at all.)

Ah, but it’s not that simple (is anything?). Jacques Pépin was also taught to remove garlic’s green germ. But, after some testing, he found that he liked the garlic better with the germ left in. Marcella Hazan also never removed the green germ. Her reasoning was, as David Lebovitz explains in his own green germ exploration, that “since it [the germ] was new garlic in the making, it was tender and not bitter.”

Oh, but it’s still not that simple!

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In the same post, Lebovitz tested garlic and green germ-ed garlic two ways: raw, in mayonnaise, and cooked, in pasta. His conclusion: The mayonnaise made with the green germ had a disagreeable bite to it, but there was no discernible difference between the two cooked pasta dishes. (Lebovitz says he’ll still remove the green germ in all applications regardless.)

The not-so-simple, simple conclusion: If you don’t like the taste of the green germ, remove it. If you don’t mind it, leave it in. And if you’re using garlic in braises, soups, stews, or even roasting it whole, the germ probably won't make much of a difference anyway.

Do you remove the green germ? Let us know in the comments!

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26 Comments

shecans January 19, 2018
We grow our own, and harvest once a year, so although it's now almost 8 months old, the greater risk is drying out, the only ones that get the green sprout are ones on the counter in the light. Kept in the dark, and the sprout never sprouts.
 
Karen M. January 5, 2018
I always remove it because I was told to YEARS ago but I notice when I watch The Barefoot Contessa (my heroine), she never removes it. I still remove it. Old habits die hard!
 
Rita K. January 4, 2018
I’m nearly 70 yrs old and it was last year, when taking a class on a cruise ship, that I was told to remove that inner core. I’ve been removing it ever since. Each time I ask myself whether I should plant it in a pot. I wonder if it would grow.<br />
 
Scribbles February 12, 2017
I read this article with much interest as, while I was taking cooking classes in Italy, the instructor said to always remove the germ - thus, I always remove the germ. It's so simple to remove and it's just become habit.
 
Lois A. January 27, 2017
While I was training in Paris F. I was told your garlic is not fresh if it has the germ, the flavour will not be correct and it will repeat. Do not use it....who knows
 
Deeba R. January 17, 2017
I just leave it in. I love everything garlic, and after all, this was the garlics little baby.
 
irishchef January 16, 2017
I WAS TOLD THE GERM WAS A CARCINOGEN
 
CandiceHope January 16, 2017
I know I saw Martha Stewart make a big deal about taking the green germ out, but I figured it was just another of her OCD, über-finicky instructions. I don't like raw garlic, so always replace it with roasted in any recipe. I generally leave the green germ in, but if it's really big, I try to get most of it out.
 
Katrina January 15, 2017
I just read an article based on studies conducted in Korea that once the garlic starts to sprout many of the health benefitting compounds increase. A sprouting plant becomes more vulnerable to insects and such so it starts making more protective compounds i.e.: the ones that make garlic a superfood.
 
Karen D. January 15, 2017
My mother never removed the green germ, so I didn't. Then I went to culinary school and was told to always remove the green germ. Now I do whatever strikes me. I don't see a difference.
 
Mel January 15, 2017
I had read that when the germ turns green the garlic is no longer nutritionally sound. ???? Sometimes I remove it and sometimes I don't and quite honestly I have never noticed a difference.
 
Marit G. January 14, 2017
Never remove it, and I use a LOT of garlic.
 
Ali January 14, 2017
I have tried leaving it in, with unpleasant digestive consequences. I think removing it makes a really big difference. But my favorite is fresh undried garlic from the farmers market.
 
Fredrik B. January 14, 2017
Never thought twice about leaving it in, the garlic chopping process is finicky as it is. Wasn't even aware that garlic could cause indigestion, considering toddlers can eat sand and ants without much difficulty.
 
JoAnne L. January 14, 2017
We use a LOT of garlic at our house. I've never removed the green germ and my husband doesn't either, we've never considered it. Green potatoes are another matter, it took almost forty years to convince him that you never use green potatoes! He came from a very frugal household...FYI, We've been married for 47 years, 10 months. Frugal AND stubborn.
 
Joy January 14, 2017
When I first heard about removing the green germ, years ago, I did it routinely. Then I got lazy. I never remove it now. It's all part of the flavor amalgamate in the dishes I make. When I use garlic, I'm not looking for subtle.
 
Emily January 12, 2017
When you roast garlic, the green germ is not noticeable. At least not to my peasant taste buds!
 
Laura P. January 11, 2017
I was told to remove it as it causes indigestion..so I do!
 
Doug January 11, 2017
I was told and similarly "accepted" it as fact that it contributes to gas (digestive issues). I also consider visual appeal or consistency of the dish. Taste is not the only consideration when considering to remove or not. I remove it.
 
ChefJune January 11, 2017
I remove it. Don't know if it would cause any digestive issues, because I always take them out (unless it's fresh, young garlic).<br />I remember enjoying Julia and Jacques going back and forth on that issue in the tv shows they did together. He likes the sprout. Julia always removed it and gave him a very hard time about leaving it in. :-D