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?


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.


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. – Saaru Lindestøkke Oct 23 '15 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 Oct 23 '15 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 Oct 23 '15 at 20:17
  • That's a good point. It still shouldn't be like that, though, if it is fresh and well-stored. – NadjaCS Oct 23 '15 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 Dec 16 '17 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". – Saaru Lindestøkke Oct 23 '15 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 Oct 23 '15 at 18:20
  • Being bio does not explain this condition. BTW bio products are mostly called organic in English :-) – NadjaCS Oct 23 '15 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 Oct 23 '15 at 18:27
  • 1
    @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 Oct 23 '15 at 19:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.