White garlic is the most common variety of garlic sold in the market. It is not the only variety though!
You may often come across purple garlic or notice the white garlic you bought turning purple. Wondering what purple garlic is and whether it’s safe to eat? Let’s find out!
So, why is my garlic purple? Garlic can be purple because of two reasons: it is one of the “hardneck” varieties of garlic with purple stripes or because your white garlic reacted with something acidic. Both are safe to eat and can be used in a variety of dishes.
Read on to find out more about purple garlic, how it compares and contrasts to white garlic, how white garlic can turn purple, and more.
What Is Purple Garlic?
Purple garlic is a “hardneck” garlic variety that has purple stripes on its outer skin.
There are three types of purple garlic: purple stripe garlic, marbled stripe garlic, and glazed purple garlic.
In general, purple garlic has fewer, easy-to-peel cloves and a small round stalk in the middle of the cloves.
It boasts an intense aroma and spicy flavor and is grown in many countries including Italy, Spain, Mexico, Tasmania, Australia, China, and Russia.
Out of the lot, Italian purple garlic is the most popular, mainly due to its mild flavor, longer shelf-life, and early harvest. Most of the purple garlic found in the United States comes from Mexico — it has a stronger taste and a shorter shelf-life.
Purple Garlic Vs White Garlic
White garlic is what you’ll typically see in the market and what most people are accustomed to using.
This is a “softneck” garlic variety, which means that the stalk doesn’t grow through the middle of the garlic bulb.
One bulb of white garlic will have several cloves of different shapes and sizes, with larger cloves found on the surface and smaller ones in the center. The bulbs are traditionally braided together and the stalk at the stem end stays soft and flexible.
White garlic is tougher than other varieties and is easy to grow. It has a strong garlic flavor and a longer shelf-life.
Purple garlic, on the other hand, has a purple hue, although the inner cloves are the same color as white garlic cloves. It is a “hardneck” garlic variety, which means that the stalk is woody and grows right through the middle of each bulb.
The cloves are fewer in number and tend to be uniform in size, although a bit larger than white garlic cloves, and grow around the stalk. They are juicier and have a milder flavor when fresh, as well as a shorter shelf-life.
The skin on white garlic cloves is thinner and more difficult to peel, whereas purple garlic has relatively thicker skin that is easier to peel.
White garlic has a higher cold resistance and contains more water than purple garlic. It is best stored sealed at a lower temperature. Purple garlic must be kept in a dry, ventilated place.
Both white garlic and purple garlic are rich in protein, vitamins, cellulose, iron, phosphorus, calcium, and other minerals.
They have more or less the same amount of nutrients, although purple garlic has more anthocyanins than white garlic, which is a great antioxidant. Purple garlic also has a higher content of allicin, giving it more antibacterial properties.
You can easily use purple garlic in place of white garlic in cooking.
Since it has a slightly milder flavor, it is a better choice when using raw as it won’t overpower the other ingredients. Some even think that the flavor of purple garlic lingers on for a longer time after cooking.
Here is a summary of how white garlic and purple garlic compare with each other:
|White Garlic||Purple Garlic|
|Number Of Cloves||Several (10-30)||Few (4-5)|
|Clove Skin||Thin and difficult to peel off||Thicker and easier to peel off|
Why Would Garlic Turn Purple?
There are two reasons why your garlic may be purple: either it was originally purple (i.e., it belongs to the “hardneck” variety), or it was originally white garlic and then turned purple.
If it is the latter, this can happen when white garlic interacts with something acidic such as vinegar, lemon juice, or cookware and utensils made with copper, iron, or aluminum.
Garlic contains alliin (an odorless sulfur compound) and alliinase (an enzyme). When the two mix, it forms an organosulfur compound called allicin, which gives garlic its distinctive flavor and pungent odor when chopped or crushed.
When an acidic solution or metallic object is introduced to the mix, it causes the garlic to turn purple. In certain cases, it might even turn green or blue.
The allicin mixes with the amino acids in the garlic and forms rings of carbon-nitrogen called pyrroles, many of which create polypyrroles that lead to the change in color.
To prevent garlic from turning purple, here’s what you can do:
- Avoid using metal cookware — opt for stainless-steel or enameled cookware instead.
- Use distilled water when pickling garlic as it is metal-free.
- Use sea salt or kosher salt, both of which are iodine-free.
- Keep garlic away from sunlight.
- Blanch garlic for 10 seconds, though it may affect the taste.
Is Purple Garlic Bad?
If you are not familiar with purple garlic or don’t know what causes white garlic to turn purple, you may assume that it has gone bad and is not safe to eat. This is not true.
Garlic that is originally purple or has turned purple, blue, or green is perfectly safe to eat. While the former has a slightly different flavor profile, in the latter case, the color change has absolutely no effect on how it tastes.
Similar to how consuming too much white garlic can result in bad breath and cause flatulence, the same can be expected with eating too much purple garlic. In extreme cases, it may even result in acid reflux and digestive issues.
While purple garlic is a little milder in flavor as compared to white garlic, it can still cause bad breath, particularly when eaten raw.
You can combat this issue by including some fat like olive oil or eating apples or drinking milk. You may even try biting into a lemon or drinking some lemon juice.
How To Tell If Purple Garlic Has Gone Bad
Like white garlic, purple garlic is prone to spoilage over time and also due to improper handling and storage.
Luckily, there are a few tell-tale signs to spot bad garlic and save yourself from the trouble of ruining your dish and risking your health.
1. Feel The Garlic
Similar to onions, fresh garlic will be firm and you will get a good idea of that when you start to peel it.
Give the garlic a little squeeze — if you notice that it is soft and mushy, it has most likely expired. If you see a liquid oozing out of the garlic as you peel it, it is also a clear sign of spoilage.
2. Look At The Garlic
Fresh purple garlic has purple, paper-like skin with white cloves inside. If you notice that the cloves are yellow, they are still safe to eat, but may not be as fresh.
If garlic develops brown spots, it is an indication of the garlic going bad. Any signs of mold growth are also a clear red flag.
You may also notice that, over time, the garlic will begin to grow a green sprout inside. While it is safe to eat and doesn’t mean that the garlic is bad, it is best to remove the sprout from the clove as it has a bitter taste to it.
3. Smell The Garlic
Garlic has a distinct smell that tells a lot about how fresh it is. If it starts to lose its aroma, it is either already spoilt or on its way. It may also develop a sour smell, which indicates that it is rotting.
If the aroma has faded but hasn’t turned sour, you can still use it, although it won’t be as pungent. If it smells bad, discard it immediately.
How To Choose Fresh Purple Garlic
When buying fresh purple garlic at the market, choose bulbs with darker skin and more evenly distributed stripes as they are of better quality.
Try to choose a round shape with better wrapping, and avoid chipped or deformed skin. Cloves that are evenly distributed, have obvious arcs, and are closely connected are better in terms of both appearance and quality.
Pay attention to the way the garlic looks. If you notice that new buds are growing on the top, do not buy it as it isn’t probably as fresh and may also have an inferior nutritional content.
Put the garlic in your hand — if it feels firm, dry, and heavy to the touch, it is fresh. If it is soft and dented, it may have begun to deteriorate and it is recommended to not buy it.