What you see: A sprouted onion
What it is: A sprouted onion!
Eat or toss: Eat! You can eat the onion and its green shoots too!
Thanks to Susan M. of Norwalk, Conn. for sending this photo of her very sprouted white onion!
Fortunately for Susan and the stew she was hoping to make, sprouted onions--including the sprouts themselves--are entirely safe to eat. The worst that could happen is the onion could taste more bitter normal.
When onions sprout, some of their good stuff, especially sugars, is directed to the new growth. With many of its sugars beamed up to the growing shoots, the onion bulb itself loses sweetness. You may like the more bitter taste or you may not notice it at all, especially if you cook the onion.
How much is taste impacted? Opinions vary
Views on the culinary viability of sprouted onions vary: Cook's Illustrated ran a taste test
with sprouted and not-sprouted onions and found that the sprouted onions tended to be less sweet and more fibrous (because of moisture loss, a common affliction of older veggies); Cook's Illustrated’s taste testers also didn’t like the green shoots, finding them to be too bitter. But, writing for TheKitchn, Sheela Prakash reports detecting no bitterness when the onions are cooked. The Waste Free Kitchen Handbook also encourages eating the onion and its sprouts as well, suggesting you use the sprouts as you would a green onion.
Here at EatOrToss, we’re all about reducing food waste, so we’d urge you to give it a try. Tell us what you think!
But, before you start chopping, a few words on avoiding this situation in the first place.
How to prevent sprouts
Onions sprout because they get cues that it’s time to move on to the next stage in their life cycle; age, hormones and temperature are all involved. In fact, some onions are treated with something called maleic hydrazide to inhibit growth. A too-warm environment can spur an onion into shoot-growing. You don’t want to refrigerate onions, but a cool, dark pantry is ideal.
And, of course, as soon as you see that an onion has sprouted, consider it a message from Onionville that it’s time to get cooking. If the onion’s schedule is out of synch with your meal plan for the week, not to worry. You can freeze freshly chopped onions. No need to cook or blanche them first.
Waste free kitchen handbook. Dana Gunders. p. 165
So Your Garlic (and Onion) Grew a Sprout. Can You Still Use It? Sheela Prakash. TheKitchn.
Using Sprouted Onions: Is it OK to cook with sprouted onions? Cook’s Illustrated. September 2013.
Onions: Commercial Vegetable Recomendations. MSU Extension. Michigan State University. September 26, 2016. B. Zandstra
Harvesting and Storing Onions. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Richard Jauron. Extension Horticulturalist.
Role of Ethylene on Sprouting of Onion Bulbs (Allium cepa L.). Benkeblia, N.* and Selselet-Attou, G. (Institute of Biology, Mostaganem University, BP 118, 27000 Mostaganem, Algeria). Acta Agriculturæ Scandinavica Section B, Soil and Plant Science. 1999.
Onions, Dry. Vegetable Produce Facts. Postharvest Center. University of California, Davis. Trevor Suslow, Department of Plant Sciences.
Post-Harvest Cooling and Handling of Onions. North Carolina State Extension.