Is It Safe To Eat Onions That Have Started Sprouting?

Even with the best planning, we've all had our produce start to spoil from time to time. Potatoes turn green, apples go soft, but onions might be the most dramatic. They'll send out long green sprouts from their spot on the counter, letting you know you've once again forgotten about them. While you probably already know not to eat green potatoes, sprouting onions are not as problematic. The green sprout just indicates that the onion is doing what comes naturally and, for a bulb in the allium family, that means growing into a new plant.

You might be surprised to learn that onions (and garlic) store energy in their bulbs, which allows them to grow even when they're not planted in soil. Although the sprouting happening in your kitchen is not a sign of spoilage since the onion is using its stored sugars, it may taste a bit more bitter if you eat it raw. But, if you plan to cook the onion, you probably won't be able to taste any difference at all. You don't need to discard the sprout — it's basically a bonus green onion, and you can cut it up and enjoy it as well.

Storing and using onions all year

You might also be surprised to know that onions are a seasonal crop. Although we see them at the grocery store all year long, onions are at their best when they've been recently harvested, which depends on your area and the exact onion variety but is generally from fall until spring. Fresh onions are less likely to sprout — you'll recognize them because their skin is lighter and has less papery layers. As they are stored, onions develop a harder, darker paper on the exterior. You'll notice that those onions are more likely to sprout; they've been out of the ground for a while, so they're ready to grow.

To slow down any possible sprouting, store your onions at cool room temperature out of direct sunlight. Just like your plants, bright light along with some moisture will get the growth cycle going, and the onions will sprout. If the onion has green or black mold or dark squishy spots, those are indications of actual spoilage and a sign to toss the bulb in your compost.