I have a whole garlic where almost all cloves are slightly brown, a bit translucent and soft. This is a photo of one of the cloves: enter image description here

The cloves are also a bit sticky when peeled. It reminds me a bit of how pickled garlic looks like: enter image description here

These are not brown spots, so it doesn't seem bruised. Tastewise the garlic seems less strong than regular, light yellow garlic.

Does anybody know how these cloves ended up like this?


5 Answers 5


This is a defect known as "waxy breakdown" or "waxy decomposition", and is caused by growing or storing the garlic under too hot conditions.

See http://livegpath.cals.cornell.edu/gallery/garlic/waxy-breakdown-on-garlic/, which also mentions that anaerobic storage conditions are also considered a possible cause or contributing factor by scientists.


I now buy only organic garlic. It is always typical garlic white, just as the non-organic stuff I used to buy.

However, my most recent purchase (of 3 days ago), is a different story. First use the day of purchase yielded one clove, rotted to the point that its sac collapsed, a common occurrence under long term storage, so no big deal. Other cloves I used at that time were fine.

This morning I found another much as described by OP above. This particular clove is not sticky, not particularly soft/squishy, but brown, translucent, and putting off a heavy garlic odor, as opposed to the typical clove which does not smell strong until cut or crushed, in other words, damaged in some way. So in my case at least, I believe bruising is the answer. Examination of the outer clove surface seems to support this; it shows a line of demarcation of damage, where deterioration is not quite complete on the left (also incomplete on the inside), so damage seems to have occurred on the right side of the clove and deterioration process is moving left and inward.

I'm tossing the clove out of precaution, though I believe it is probably fine.

If, in my case, the whole head had been affected, I would think waxy breakdown, but I offer this observation as another option for those coming to this site for answers.

I appreciate my new-found knowledge about waxy breakdown. Thank you rackandboneman!


It looks like it has been frozen then thawed, although that should not leave it sticky. The stickiness makes me suspect rotting as well, but I would expect you to be able to smell that. High heat could also cause the softening but I'd expect more color change in that case. (Heat could cause a milder flavor, though. Freezing usually doesn't.)

You should take it back to the store and complain, and ask them to look into how it has been handled. Be prepared to tell them how you have handled it, too, but a decent market will want to look into this because it could be a health hazard. If you bought it very recently they may also have other bulbs from the same batch to compare.

When buying garlic, the bulb should feel firm and the papery skin should not feel very loose. Over time, in normal storage (cool, dry, decent air circulation), garlic will tend to wither and shrivel and will become a bit rubbery, and it may start to sprout. It will not become translucent or sticky in normal storage conditions.

  • Well, too late to bring it back. The photo actually shows the last clove, I ate the rest over the past weeks as it did not smell bad. Will buy an organic and a "regular" garlic next time at the supermarket to compare, and perhaps complain. Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 19:19
  • when I get home, I will see if I have any frozen garlic to thaw and show in pictures. (I sometimes buy garlic in bulk and freeze part of it.)
    – NadjaCS
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 19:25
  • 2
    Garlic juice is always sticky (it makes a very good, if smelly, glue), so if a clove is sticky, it could be because it or its neighbor got bruised enough to release some juice.
    – Marti
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:17
  • That's a good point. It still shouldn't be like that, though, if it is fresh and well-stored.
    – NadjaCS
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 22:04

Some of my garlic looks somewhat like that after it's been stored for a year (some looks worse and gets composted, some looks better.) I've got a few heads from 2014 to use up before I start on the 2015 crop.

But that also resembles (even more) garlic that has been roasted. Allowing for the fact that nearly all recipes for "roasting" garlic are essentially steaming it in foil, with some small opportunity for caramelization, but mostly steam.

  • Some of my home-smoked garlic looked like that. I think it had got too warm
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 9:17

Garlic is not supposed to look like that. Its sticky, brown and soft -- I would throw that out. How did you store the bulb? Garlic does well in a dry, circulated area at room temperature.

  • It is stored as all my other garlic in a dry, circulated area at room temperature. It was like this when I bought it from the supermarket. The only difference with regular garlic is that it was marketed as "biological". Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 18:09
  • That's strange. Is the other garlic non-biological? :) The bulb may have gotten smashed during transit -- garlic's shelf life goes down once you start peeling off the cloves.
    – Ohnana
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 18:20
  • Being bio does not explain this condition. BTW bio products are mostly called organic in English :-)
    – NadjaCS
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 18:25
  • Ah, that makes more sense. I was only making a joke about what "non biological" garlic would look like. Metal garlic? Rock garlic? Cloves of plastic?
    – Ohnana
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 18:27
  • 4
    @Ohnana - IMO "organic" doesn't make any more sense than "biological", linguistically... I mean, who ever heard of an inorganic plant? If it is inorganic and grows on its own, wouldn't it probably be a crystal? but ahem yes. :-)
    – NadjaCS
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 19:22

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