The truth about storing ground garlic

Reader Polline Teo wrote in to ask about storing garlic.

She wrote: "To expedite cooking dinner, I would grind all my garlic and put it into a bottle, pour olive oil and salt into it, and it would be ready to use. The smell of garlic was beautiful raw as well as fried."

However, she later noticed the garlic - both raw and fried - smelt and tasted like kerosene. "It seems you cannot store it, but should use it daily. Hence, I have avoided using garlic in my dishes and have thrown out all the prepared garlic."

Food writer Eunice Quek finds out if this is indeed true.

An Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) spokesman said: "Garlic is rich in sulphur. Its characteristic flavour and smell are caused by volatile sulphur compounds which are released when garlic cells are ruptured by actions such as chewing, chopping or crushing.

"Garlic - crushed, chopped and stored in any form - should not smell or taste like kerosene. The complexity of odour from the volatile compounds, especially when mixed with oil, may give rise to the perceived 'kerosene' smell and feel. If unsure, do not consume it."

Ms Bibi Chia, principal dietitian of Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, said garlic in oils "must be frozen or refrigerated".

The AVA spokesman added that raw ground garlic mixed in oil - stored at a temperature high enough for bacteria to grow - provides an ideal environment for clostridium botulinum, a bacterium known to produce toxins which can cause fatal food poisoning.

Whole garlic is best stored in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place to minimise sprouting and mould growth, said the spokesman.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'The truth about storing ground garlic'. Print Edition | Subscribe