Mold On Garlic: Is It Still Safe To Eat?

It’s incredibly frustrating to see that your plans for a bolognese dinner are spoiled because your garlic went moldy, but is it safe to use the garlic if it’s just a little moldy or does it need to be thrown out?

It is not safe to use garlic that has mold growing on either its outer skin or on the clove itself. Molds can produce toxic compounds known as mycotoxins which can cause serious health complaints if ingested. If you discover any mold growing on the garlic you’ve purchased, it should be discarded.

In this article, I’ll be covering the topic of why you can’t eat moldy garlic in depth, so, if you’re a garlic lover, keep reading!

garlic mold

Is it safe to eat moldy garlic?

Moldy garlic should not be eaten, even if you are fit and healthy. Inhaling spores that it can release may cause unpleasant symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest, and if the garlic is ingested, it can lead to gastrointestinal issues, nausea, abdominal pain, and potentially very serious allergic reactionsOpens in a new tab..

Furthermore, fungi on garlic is a sign of spoilage, as it is more likely to grow on older garlic that has been stored incorrectly, so the clove would have a distinctly bitter and offputting taste. If any mold is found growing on the garlic you were about to use, it should be discarded.

You may wonder if you can simply cut away the parts that have visible growth on them and use the rest to avoid wasting a whole clove/bulb, but this once again is not recommended. The reason for this is that mold grows roots (called hyphaeOpens in a new tab.), that burrow deep into the material it has settled on making it very difficult to be certain that all of the mold has been removed.

Mycotoxins that may have been released into the clove via these roots will also be extremely difficult to remove, so their consumption would still be likely. As garlic has a high water content, the toxins could easily travel through the entire clove, making none of it safe to eat.

What to do if you accidentally ate mold on garlic

Let’s say you’ve eaten half a piece of garlic bread, then gone to the kitchen and noticed that the garlic bulb you used to make it has got mold growing on it. What are you supposed to do now?

Well, the good news is that in most circumstances, you will be fine if you only ate a little moldOpens in a new tab.. However, if you start to notice immediate symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, or throat irritation, you should seek medical advice immediately. As I stated though, this is unlikely and will mostly only occur in people with allergies to mold.

It could also cause stomach upset and abdominal pain even in people without allergies, depending on how much was eaten, so it really is best to avoid it completely if possible.

It goes without saying that once the mold has been discovered, whatever food you used it in should no longer be consumed as you would be running the risk of becoming ill if you did. It’s also not advisable to try to make yourself vomit, as this could cause an injury and may not be an effective way to remove mycotoxins from your system.

If you start to notice any symptoms after consumption, then seek medical advice. If not, monitor your health over the next few hours or days and consult a medical professional if you feel it is needed.

What if the mold is only growing on the outer skin of the bulb?

Even if the growth that you spot appears to only be on the outside of the bulb and only on its skin, it’s still best to throw the whole bulb away. This may seem wasteful, but when mold grows, it can release spores that can travel deeper into the garlic. Once settled, it can begin to grow and will be invisible to the naked eye in its early stages.

This growth can then start to spread through the individual cloves, contaminating them with mycotoxinsOpens in a new tab.. So, much as you may not want to part with a whole bulb of garlic, chances are, if you’ve spotted mold on the outside, it’s probably on the inside too.

Signs of mold growth on garlic

You may be wondering “What does moldy garlic look like?”, and luckily, there are several signs to look for on a garlic bulb or clove that point to fungal growth.

The most common signs of mold are black or brown spots on the outside of a garlic bulb, a green or white fuzzy/powdery substance usually found on the bulb itself, or a powdery substance with a blueish tint to it. However, there may also be blemishes or marks that are no indication of growth at all, so I have created a table below to make it a little easier to decide if you need to throw the garlic out or not.

Mark or blemishCauseAction
Brown patches of darkened skinNatural aging of the skin, can be discardedGarlic is edible, no action
Brown spotsPotential fungal growth if found with fuzzy or powdery residue. If no residue is found, see aboveUnsafe to consume, discard
Powdery white substance on outer skinWhite mold on garlic appears as a fuzzy or powdery growth, this is almost certainly fungi.Unsafe to consume, discard
Purple streaksPerfectly natural on some varities, and is safe to consumeSafe to consume
Black spotsBlack spots on garlic with a powdery residue indicate mold growthUnsafe to consume, discard
Bruises or darkened sections of cloveIf only darkened slightly without any signs of powdery growth, this is usually only bruising. The bruised parts can be removedSafe to consume
Green or blue patches on outer skinAlmost certainly a sign of either green or blue mold on garlicUnsafe to consume, discard

Why does garlic get moldy?

The most common reason for mold to develop on garlic is down to poor storageOpens in a new tab..

For example, storing your garlic in a bowl on the kitchen countertop may seem like a good idea, however, kitchens often have higher humidity levels than other rooms of the house. Any time the humidity levels pass over 60%Opens in a new tab., mold can begin to grow.

Mold only needs a temperate climate between 77°F (25°C) and 88°F (31°C), moisture, and a source of food in order to grow very fast, and if your humidity levels are high, your kitchen provides everything it needs to thrive.

Households in the United States have an average thermostat setting between 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit, which gives mold exactly the right temperature range to flourish. You may think that you can prevent this by storing it in the fridge instead, however, the humidity levels in refrigerators tend to be even higher than 60%, and there are also many types of fungi that can survive in colder temperatures.

Storing it in the fridge can also spoil its taste, and stimulate growth which leads to sprouting and can also spoil its texture, so this is not a good option.

How quickly does garlic grow mold?

Mold can begin to grow on garlic bulbs or cloves in as little as 24-48 hoursOpens in a new tab..

During its initial stages, mold grows on a microscopic level, and is not visible to the naked eye for several days. If the conditions in which it is being stored do not change, however, visible growth will begin to appear within several days to one week.

Factors that can increase the rate at which it grows include:

  • Surface moisture – From washing, splashing of water, etc, which results in an immediate hydration source for fungi)
  • Humidity levels greater than 60% – At this moisture level, airborne water droplets can condensate on surfaces and create a hydration source
  • Storage temperatures – Anything greater than 77% Fahrenheit will speed up the fungal growth rate
  • Lack of airflow/ventilation – Adequate ventilation helps to drive away stale moisture-laden air and replace it with fresh, dry air

Is the green mold on garlic dangerous?

The green mold found on garlic is most likely a strain of penicilliumOpens in a new tab., and whilst many strains of mold are harmless to humans, you should not deliberately ingest it if seen.

Some people may have little to no reaction, but others can be allergic to the spores produced by the mold, causing breathing difficulties (including asthma attacks), and skin and eye irritationOpens in a new tab. amongst others.

If you were to accidentally eat mold that was specifically green on garlic, you should follow the same advice as given earlier. You should not attempt to induce vomiting, you should certainly not continue eating the infected item and you should monitor yourself for symptoms, seeking medical advice if necessary.

What about black mold on garlic?

Black mold on garlic is most likely the Aspergillus NigerOpens in a new tab. strain of mold. This is the same strain that you can find in the corners of bathrooms and in rooms of the home that have regular high humidity levels.

This strain of mold is most commonly discussed, as it is known to be potentially highly toxic. If you see black mold on your garlic, it again should be immediately thrown away.

By the time visible signs of black mold are apparent, the texture, taste, and smell of the garlic will have been ruined, so there is no way to safely “rescue” it. It should be discarded carefully by placing it in a plastic bag and throwing it in the trash.

If one clove of garlic is moldy is the whole bulb bad?

Unfortunately, much as it may seem a waste to throw away a whole bulb of garlic just because one clove has become moldy, it is the right thing to do.

If one clove of garlic in a bulb has become moldy, the spores have likely spread all over the bulb, meaning it should be thrown away entirely to avoid any health implications.

Once these spores have traveled into deeper parts of the bulb, many other cloves could be infected with fungi that are invisible to the naked eye. Mycotoxins could have also begun to spread through the cloves and so could cause serious health complaints if ingested.

Should you find one infected clove of garlic, it really is best to err on the side of caution and throw the entire bulb away.

How to store garlic to prevent mold growth

The good news is, that there are several options available to keep your garlic as fresh for as long as possible without fear of mold growth. The main factors to focus on when storing garlic are as follows:

Humidity – Ensure the area where you are storing your garlic has as low humidity as possible. Mold begins to grow around 60% humidity, so keeping it away from water sources (such as kettles and sinks) makes it harder for mold to form.

Airflow – Whilst you may think that keeping food stored away in a cupboard may be best for it, in the example of garlic, it is best to store it in an open space. The reason for this is that areas with little to no airflow (such as a closed cupboard) allow mold spores to settle and begin to grow, whereas any areas with a high level of airflow make it harder for mold spores to settle in any great quantity.

Temperature – Mold begins to grow exceptionally well between 77 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you live in a warmer climate, it may be worth storing your garlic in a refrigerator, but bear in mind after several weeks, the lower temperatures may encourage the garlic to start sprouting.

To store peeled or unpeeled garlic in a refrigerator, the lowest shelves of the fridge, (or even better a salad crisper), will allow for a more even temperature as well as lower overall humidity levels, which will help to keep the bulb or cloves fresh for longer.

If you do not have a salad crisper, I highly recommend products specifically created to store garlic in or out of the fridge, they all make storage a breeze and prevent cross-contamination between food items in your fridge.

I know that some people prefer to watch “how-to” videos on things like this, so below is a great video I found that shows you how to store garlic for a really long time.


Hopefully, by the end of reading this article, you will have found all the answers to your questions about mold growth in garlic.

One of the key points to remember is that if your garlic has grown mold, (either peeled or the bulb itself), throw it out. You could get sick from ingesting any mold spores, so it’s just not worth the risk.

Over to you

I really hope this article has answered all your questions about mold growth on garlic and whether or not it is still safe to eat, but now I’d like to turn it over to you.

Is there anything you think I missed in this article? Are any stones left unturned or do you have any questions for me? If so, I’d love to hear them, so please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker has struggled for several years with mold after buying his own property. After finding the solutions to several issues around his home, he decided to create this site in order to answer as many questions about mold and mildew as possible to help others dealing with the same problems.

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