The outside of the bulb is brown at the top, but the cloves look and feel normal when peeled.

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Is this safe to eat? What is the reason for the brown colour?

  • I'd say: Look at it, smell, carefully taste: If all seems OK, it's probably OK.
    – U. Windl
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 7:31

2 Answers 2


Your garlic is fine, some discoloration of the outside layers is normal. When garlic is lifted out of the ground it's covered in dirt and the outer layers are brown. Garlic is then cured (it's just letting it dry for a few weeks, there's no salt or chemicals involved) which prepares it for long term storage, during this process the garlic skin dries. Often the outer layers are peeled off to make the garlic look nicer, and depending on the variety these are usually white or white with purple.

The more layers you peel off the less protection garlic has for long-term storage, at some point you have to stop peeling or it won't last. In the case of your garlic they stopped peeling when there was still a bit of brown, which was the right thing to do. It's just appearance.

Garlic can look all brown and gnarly and still be absolutely fine, it's the condition of the cloves once peeled which matters. If the cloves themselves are discolored, soft or look rotten then they aren't good to eat.

  • 1
    Garlic is cured? As in salted and smoked?! Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 8:33
  • 2
    @JanusBahsJacquet from a quick google it appears that in the context of garlic processing, curing just refers to drying out the outer layers, rather than using chemical preservatives (like salts and nitrates) as it typically does. I will note that smoking is normally considered an additional process that may be done in parallel with curing, but is certainly not required (e.g. parma ham is a simple salt-cured ham that is unsmoked)
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 9:01
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I grew garlic this year in the garden, you just need to let them dry several days in the sun so that it doesn't rot once stored
    – Kaddath
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 9:33
  • @Kaddath, a few days isn't enough, full curing takes at least 3 weeks, often longer depending on temperature and humidity. A few days is enough to get it started, then you can braid it and it will fully cure hanging up in your kitchen.
    – GdD
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 10:47
  • 1
    Sorry for the confusion @JanusBahsJacquet, as Tristan says curing just means drying. I don't know why it's called curing, it just is. I've edited the answer to make that clear.
    – GdD
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 10:51

Dirt, or oxidation would explain the brown color (dirt if it's always been this way, oxidation if it's changed. Garlic grows in the dirt, and if it's not harvested early enough to have plenty of dirty leaves to strip off the bulb while clean leaves remain below them, it may well be stained with dirt. Or if it simply wasn't stripped of the outer leaves after harvest for that purpose.)

There's nothing wrong with that garlic from this picture. It should be perfectly safe to eat.

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