Don’t Throw Out Old Garlic With Sprouts

Baby boomers always knew that most things get better with age. Now we know that garlic bulbs do, too.

Food scientists found that old garlic bulbs with bright green shoots emerging from the cloves have even more heart-healthy antioxidant activity than their fresher counterparts.

Eating garlic or taking garlic supplements has long been touted as a natural way to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart disease risk. It even may boost the immune system and help fight cancer. But those benefits were always linked with fresh, raw garlic. Sprouted garlic has received much less attention — probably because it usually ends up in the garbage.

But when seedlings grow into green plants, they make many new compounds, including those that protect the young plant against pathogens. Researchers figured that the same thing might be happening when green shoots grow from old heads of garlic. Other studies have shown that sprouted beans and grains have increased antioxidant activity, so the team set out to see if the same is true for garlic.

They found that garlic sprouted for five days had higher antioxidant activity than fresher, younger bulbs, and it had different metabolites, suggesting that it also makes different substances. Extracts from this garlic even protected cells in a laboratory dish from certain types of damage.

“Therefore, sprouting may be a useful way to improve the antioxidant potential of garlic,” they conclude in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published by the American Chemical Society.