Why Is My Garlic Translucent? Is It Safe To Eat?

translucid garlic

Garlic is a universally loved plant used in many different recipes worldwide. However, garlic can develop some less known problems, one of them being the garlic turning translucent. Why does garlic do this, and is it still safe to eat this garlic?

Garlic that has turned translucent and is yellow or amber has developed a condition called waxy breakdown. Unfortunately, garlic with waxy breakdown is not safe to eat and should be thrown away. If more than 10% of the bulb is affected, the entire bulb must be thrown away.

How long can garlic stay good before developing waxy breakdown? How can you tell if garlic is bad and about to develop waxy breakdown? Can you prevent waxy breakdown from developing? We will discover what you should know about garlic and waxy breakdown in this article!

Why Your Garlic Is Translucent?

Garlic is one of the most loved ingredients in the world. Everyone loves cheesy garlic bread to go with their bowl of hot soup or a good amount of garlic added to their favorite pasta dish to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients and elevate the meal.

When buying garlic, you might not inspect it as closely as you should, or you might have been storing your garlic for a long time only when you want to use it, some of the cloves are translucent. So, why does garlic go translucent?

When your garlic goes translucent, it’s most probably going through a process called waxy breakdown. This physiological disease can affect garlic if it’s exposed to high temperatures while growing or being stored.

With waxy breakdown, the outer protective scales are unaffected, making it difficult to tell if the clove is affected until it’s cut open. In the early stages of waxy breakdown, light yellow areas will appear in the flesh of the garlic.

From there, the waxy breakdown will spread, causing the affected cloves to turn amber or deep yellow, and the clove will be translucent and waxy or sticky when touched.

How Long Does Garlic Stay Good?

If you buy many garlic cloves and only use them in a few meals, you might wonder how long your garlic can last before going bad or developing waxy breakdown.

When you buy garlic raw and fresh, it doesn’t come with an expiration date, so this is a good question to ask to help you avoid eating bad garlic. The main factor that determines how long your garlic will last is how you store it.

If you store a clove of garlic in your pantry correctly, it can last between 3 to 5 months. Once you break the garlic bulb to use some of it, the quality of the garlic will fall quite fast, and you should use the rest of the garlic within 7 days or so. Unpeeled garlic can last between 7 to 10 days in your pantry.

Can You Eat Garlic That Is Translucent?

It can be disappointing when you cut open what seems to be a lovely bulb of garlic, only to find that some cloves are affected by waxy breakdown. One question you might have now is, can you still eat the translucent garlic?

Unfortunately, the cloves that are affected by waxy breakdown and are translucent cannot be eaten. And if the garlic bulb has more than 10% of the clove inside it affected by waxy breakdown, then you cannot eat any of that garlic as this is a progressive defect, meaning it can spread from garlic clove to garlic clove.

So, if you have a garlic bulb that contains 10 garlic cloves and two or more of the cloves show signs of waxy breakdown, you will need to throw the entire bulb away and cut open another one to use in your cooking. If less than 10% is affected, you can throw the affected cloves out and still use the rest of the garlic in the bulb.

How To Tell If Your Garlic Is Bad

When working with garlic, you need to know whether your garlic is still fine to eat or not before you place it in the meal you are preparing. This can be difficult as garlic bulbs have a dry outer protective layer called scale.

It can be challenging to decipher the condition of the garlic cloves inside this scale before you cut it open. Sometimes even when you have cut the garlic bulb open, you might still be slightly weary and not know if your garlic is safe to eat.

Thankfully, there are three ways you can test your garlic to see if it’s still edible or not. You don’t need special tools for these methods, only your senses. Let’s go through the ways you can tell if your garlic has gone off or not.

Brown Spots On The Garlic

The first way you can tell if your garlic is still fine to eat or not is to look at it closely. When garlic is spoiled, it will form brown spots on the garlic cloves. The garlic cloves will turn from their usual white color to brown or yellow in certain areas.

This is one of the first signs you can look for that indicate your garlic is no longer safe to eat and is possibly developing waxy breakdown.

You will need to peel off the scale from the garlic to look for these brown or yellow spots on the cloves, so only do this when you are ready to use the garlic as it could affect the self-life of the garlic.

Changes In The Garlic’s Smell

The next way you can tell if your garlic is still okay to eat or not is by smelling it. This method can work with peeled cloves or garlic bulbs that still have their scale. Garlic has a very well-known smell that pretty much everyone in the world knows and can identify.

The pungent and spicy but delicious smell of garlic is something that many people love. So, using your nose to help you decide if your garlic is still good or not is one of the best ways to do it.

If you smell your garlic and its distinctive smell seems less intense, or it’s lost its smell entirely, or the garlic smells slightly sour, the garlic has gone off. It would be best to throw that garlic bulb away and use a different one for your meal.

The Garlic Feels Mushy

The next sense you will use to help you determine if your garlic has gone off or not is your sense of touch. When garlic is still good to eat, it will be firm to the touch. Garlic will become soft as it ages, and if your garlic feels soft or mushy, you need to throw it away as it’s probably off.

You can use your sense of touch to help determine if peeled garlic cloves or garlic bulbs that are still covered in scale have gone off or not, making this a good overall sign to look for in your garlic.

What Will Happen If You Eat Off Garlic?

So, should you be worried if your garlic is bad and you don’t realize it before you eat it? Can garlic that has gone off or is affected by waxy breakdown affects your health if you eat it? The main worry when someone consumes bad garlic is that garlic that has gone off can contain botulism.

Foodborne botulism is fairly rare, but you should never place yourself in a situation where you could get it as it is serious and can be fatal. Botulism will affect the nerves connected to the mouth, eyes, throat, and face, which is why it’s so dangerous.

Symptoms of botulism caused by consuming bad garlic include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, difficulty breathing, and swallowing, and double vision. If you experience these symptoms after getting bad garlic, immediately contact your doctor.

How To Prevent Your Garlic From Going Translucent

When you buy garlic, you want to ensure it lasts as long as possible in storage to give you the time you need to use it all before it goes off or develops waxy breakdown. To prevent your garlic from developing waxy breakdown, you need to store your garlic properly.

When you are storing garlic, there are two main factors you need to think about. These are temperature and oxygen. Let’s go through how to store your garlic correctly to ensure it lasts as long as needed.

Store Your Garlic In The Correct Temperatures

Firstly, you need to store your garlic in a dry and dark location, so your pantry or a kitchen cupboard is perfect. Do not store your garlic in the fridge, as moisture and light can cause mold growth on the garlic.

When you store your garlic, one of the most important factors to look at is the temperature in the location you are storing it. These garlic containers are the perfect storage place for your garlic while keeping it dry will also allow air circulation (and they have a catchy design too!).

The perfect storage temperature for garlic is between 56° and 58°F. If you store your garlic at a lower temperature, it will start sprouting sooner than expected, and a higher temperature can cause waxy breakdown.

Allow Your Garlic Access To Oxygen

The next factor you need to consider is the air circulation where you store your garlic. Garlic needs access to oxygen to stay fresh for as long as possible. A lack of oxygen will increase the likelihood of waxy breakdown from developing as the garlic cannot “breathe.”


Garlic is one of the most loved ingredients around the world, but it can have some problems that not many people know about. When garlic becomes translucent, tuning the color of amber, and is sticky or squishy, this is a sign that your garlic has developed waxy breakdown.

This is a garlic lovers’ worse nightmare, as you will need to throw the garlic cloves away, and possibly even the entire bulb, depending on the severity of the defect.

Thankfully if you store your garlic at room temperature, in a dark and dry area, with good ventilation, your garlic should not develop this problem and could even last longer. Good luck with your next batch of garlic!

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Anat Goldberg

Hi! My name is Anat and I have lived all my life in the countryside. I grew on a farm in Northern Italy and from an early age, I took care of the animals on the farm and the family garden. Over the years I have developed a growing passion for organic cultivation and pest control.

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