You know your garlic is old when it starts trying to give birth to a new generation of garlic. The very center of a clove of garlic is called the germ. And when this germ sprouts a little green stem, it means that the garlic has started to germinate and develop a sprout. Traditional cooking wisdom tells us to remove this green part, because it will have a strong and bitter flavor.
I’ll be honest, I’m a researcher, not an experimenter. I would not have the patience to test this for myself, although I do experiment when the potential outcome is worth the trouble. However, if you’ve read many of the articles on this site, or similar sites, you’ll realize that traditional cooking wisdom is often completely bogus. For example, the wisdom concerning throwing away unopened mussels or clams.
Unlike myself, another blogger, and a much more accomplished cook, David Lebovitz, decided to check this out for himself. He, like myself, had always removed any green sprout from old, stored garlic, because it might be bitter. However, says David:
…I’ve never really put it to the test. So when a friend, who worked closely with Marcella Hazan (an expert on Italian cuisine) told me that Marcella never removed the green germ (her reasoning being that since it was new garlic in the making, it was tender and not bitter), I figured it would be interesting to see – and taste – if removing it really did make a difference.
Go ahead and see what David found out about the green stems in garlic cloves, and his easy-going conclusion. By the way, David mentions that he prefers slicing garlic for frying rather than mincing it. This is a habit I share. It is much less likely to turn bitter from being over-fried. And I NEVER use a garlic press. You can extract plenty of flavor from garlic just by slicing the cloves or chopping them roughly, and the result will be more balanced and less bitter, in my opinion. As a matter of fact, I’ll be slicing my garlic tonight to go into some fantastic spaghetti sauce with Italian sausage, sweet red pepper, and other stuff that’s good in spaghetti sauce. And, I’ll be using real spaghetti, not spaghetti squash!