Garlic is one of those fresh foods that you can throw in your pantry and forget about until you need it. When you wait too long, however, bulbs tend to develop sprouts, which are usually thought to be an indicator that it's past its prime and needs to be tossed out. But a recent study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry suggests otherwise.
The green stuff doesn't mean garlic is rotten, but rather that it's loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants, Korean researchers say. After observing these growths in old heads of garlic over the course of five days, they discovered that the seedlings brought with them new compounds to protect the plant against pathogens, which in turn increased antioxidant activity to levels higher than in younger, fresher bulbs.
While garlic has long been associated with possible health benefits ranging from reducing cholesterol levels as well as risk of heart disease and strengthening the immune system, this is the first study to look at the food's super powers once its cloves develop bright green shoots.
Garlic isn't the only piece of produce you might be trashing prematurely. Sprouting carrots, onions, beans, chickpeas, and wheat are also considered safe to eat as long as they are not soft or rubbery, says Christopher Ochner, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, though the sprouts might make them taste bitter. One sprouting food to beware, though, is the potato. “Potatoes are generally safe as long as they are not soft or green. Sprouting potatoes should not be eaten,” Ochner advises. They're considered to be poisonous, reports The New York Times.