What Are The Brown Spots on Garlic?

The next time you go to the grocery store take a look around, you’ll likely notice that some of the garlic cloves have raised brown patches on them. This can be concerning as it looks very similar to the mold that you are told not to eat on other foods. However, brown spots are garlic don’t always mean mold.

Brown spots on garlic are the result of bulb mites eating away at the garlic. As the mites eat, it causes small raised patches of scarring on the bulb of garlic. Fortunately, these mites are not dangerous and the garlic is still safe to consume.

If you decide that eating the bulb mites isn’t for you, there are also some simple methods that you can use to remove the bulb mites from the garlic before preparing it. Garlic is such an amazing ingredient, don’t let a few mites stop you from enjoying such a fantastic flavor.

Should Garlic Have Brown Spots?

Shortly after purchasing your garlic from the supermarket, you may begin to notice brown patches all over its surface. These patches are usually raised and medium to dark brown in color. They are reminiscent of the black mold patches that you sometimes find on onions. 

However, unlike with onions, these patches are not mold. Instead, they are the scars from bulb mites. These tiny mites leave between the papery layers of the garlic bulb and slowly eat away at the garlic. As they do this, it leaves scars in the garlic that cause small, raised brown patches.

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Is It Still Safe to Eat?

Fortunately, even if your garlic bulb is covered with scars from bulb mites, they are still safe to eat. The insect itself is not toxic and as long as you remove a few of the outer layers, you will be able to get rid of the majority of the mites before preparing the garlic.

However, it is best to avoid garlic that is infested with bulb mites. Garlic that has bulb mites is quicker to deteriorate and often loses its normally potent flavor.

If you notice that a bulb already has bulb mites, there are ways to kill the mites off and prevent further damage. One of these ways is placing the bulbs in a bath of water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit. After letting them soak for at least 10 minutes you can peel away the affected layers and all of the mites and mite eggs should be dead. 

How to Know if Garlic Is Bad

Outside of brown spots, there are a couple of other things that you should look out for when picking garlic. That way you don’t risk eating garlic that has gone rotten or been contaminated by things like mold.

Look for Visual Signs​

The easiest way to tell if your garlic has gone bad is by looking for rotten patches. Rotten patches will typically be brown or black in color and have a soft texture. If you notice patches like this it is time to throw the garlic away.

If the cloves have a yellow hue once you peel them or if you notice more bad spots on the clove itself, that is another sign that you should throw the garlic out. Eating garlic that has gone bad may cause foodborne illness.

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Look for Green Roots

If you notice green roots on your garlic cloves this means that the garlic has begun to sprout. There is nothing wrong with eating garlic that has sprouted, although some people do not like the flavor of sprouted garlic as it is sharper than usual.

If you decide not to eat your sprouted garlic you can always plant it. Then, by the next year, you will have new cloves of garlic that you and your family can enjoy. 

Smell It

Another way to check if your garlic has gone bad or not is by smelling it. Normally, garlic will have a fresh, clean smell and smell very strongly of garlic. If the garlic scent is not as robust this could mean that the garlic is losing its flavor and beginning to go bad.

If the garlic smells musty or rancid then it has definitely begun to rot and you should throw the garlic out. Do not risk eating garlic that has begun to rot as it could make you very sick.

How to Properly Store Garlic

Ideally, you should store your garlic in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. For most people, the best place to store garlic is in their pantry. If you store your garlic in a warm place it could encourage mold growth and storing your garlic in the refrigerator could cause your garlic to sprout.

You should also store your garlic in a container with plenty of air circulation. The best containers to store garlic in are mesh containers that allow for plenty of airflow between the bulbs of garlic. This helps to prevent moisture from building up and keeps your garlic from going moldy. 

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If you need your garlic to last for many months you can freeze it. When you do this you should freeze it in the whole clove and keep it in an airtight freezer bag to prevent moisture loss and freezer burn. 


Although brown spots can be offputting, they are fairly normal and are not dangerous or a sign that the garlic has gone bad. They are simply the result of bulb mites eating the garlic. If you want to remove the bulb mites you can do so with a hot water bath and removing a few of the outer layers of skin. 

Some of the signs that your garlic has gone bad that you should look out for are mushy, brown or black spots, a rancid scent, and green sprouts coming out of each garlic clove.