Sprouting Bulbs

27 Jul 2013 06.19 am by K. Daniel

Browsing through blogs and other online publications, I often run through great ideas which I can use for the articles I write here. One particular idea that caught my eye was how someone mentioned that sprouted garlic, although still edible, is rather unpleasant to eat.

But before we get into it, what is sprouting exactly? When I think of sprouts, I think of the primary school science activity of growing little mung beans on moist cotton buds to make bean sprouts, or maybe the alfalfa you can get in the supermarket. Last time I checked, garlics aint no seeds.

The veritable resource of all things on the web (Wikipedia) seems to agree with me, stating that "Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds." But Wikipedia is not a reliable resource I hear you say? Just for you, I've looked up other resources, like the venerable Merriam Webster dictionary, which says that sprouting is to grow, spring up, to come forth as a sprout. To come forth! I like that term.

And so what exactly happens when something comes forth as a sprout? Well aside from the obvious physical changes (very much like puberty in humans), the plants also go through chemical changes, or nutritional changes if you will.

These include conversion of starches into sugars, which is used by the young plant as fuel to grow. Think of starches as the equivalent of fats in animals. In lean times, the excess is used as an energy source, which in this case is sugars. For that reason quite a few sprouts and young plants like bean sprouts are rather sweet.

But what about garlic? Well, garlic and other bulbs are not exactly seeds. But the processes are similar. Sugar and protein levels do increase, but the trigger in this case is not necessarily water as with seeds. Instead, the sudden growth can be caused by light, natural or otherwise.

Plants need mainly two things to survive and grow, water and sunlight. Sunlight is another energy source used by plants for their metabolism. With seeds, most of the energy used comes from within, i.e. the starches stored.  All they need is some water which can act as a catalyst and help with the initial growth. With bulbs, roots, and other parts, they just simply need the energy coming from light.
The change results in a milder flavoured product when it concerns garlic and onions, while with some other plants such as potatoes, these changes are potentially dangerous. And what do you do with these sprouted garlic and onions?
Well some people enjoy eating the milder flavoured garlic and onions, and both have been compared to chives (for garlic) and spring onions (for, well, onions). If you want to take it to another level, you may want to put these in a pot and let them grow into fully grown plants. Garlic flowers seem to be one of the newer, trendier ingredients when it comes to modern cuisine, and the tiny white flowers give a surprising yet mild garlicky flavour.

To pick out leaves and buds, pick out uniform, bright green structures with minimal spots or flecks which may indicate deterioration, while flowers should be uniformly white. The smell would not be as strong but there should still be a recognizable garlic/onion-like smell. Flavours should be milder than the bulbs, while texture wise it is best to pick out the softer, younger buds and flowers. Older shoots may be stringy and undesirable.


Sprouting Bulbs  

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