Germinating Onions: Still Edible – Or Poisonous?

The rumor that every germinating vegetable is poisonous persists. Each of us has certainly discovered a germinating onion in the pantry at some point. In this article, ChefReader explains whether you can still eat germinating onions – and if so, which parts of them are best.

You’re about to grab the onions to chop up for lunch. But the onion has already begun to germinate: green shoots are climbing out of the tuber. Is this a problem? Should you rather throw away the sprouting onions? Or can you process the vegetables without hesitation?

First of all: all clear. You can still eat onions when they have already formed shoots – bulbs and shoots. It may just be that the onion bulb no longer contains as many nutrients as before because they have migrated into the sprouts. The solution: Don’t cut off the shoots, eat them with them!

The myth that sprouting onions are no longer edible probably persists because that is exactly the case with potatoes (also read: How to store potatoes properly). Luckily, onions are like garlic: Unlike potatoes, no harmful substances are produced when they germinate.

You should keep this in mind with germinating onions

Although germinating onions do not develop any toxic substances, you should take a closer look at the affected bulbs.

Because the shoots often show that the onions are a bit older. You should therefore sniff at germinating onions and only use them if they smell fresh and pungent as usual. In this case, consume the tubers as quickly as possible.

Older onions smell musty over time and give dishes an unpleasant aftertaste.

So germinating onions can be used

The bulb of an older or already germinating onion softens over time as the shoot feeds on the substance. In addition, onions naturally dry out sooner or later. You can still use soft onions:

  • Use softer onions for cooking or frying—the root vegetables will soften anyway.
  • It is best to only eat the green onion shoots raw, they are usually nice and crunchy. You can process them in a similar way to the green of spring onions.
  • Overcook the onions as quickly as possible, preferably in a recipe that uses a lot of onions – this way you can be sure that all the bulbs find their way onto the plate quickly.
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Written by John Myers

Professional Chef with 25 years of industry experience at the highest levels. Restaurant owner. Beverage Director with experience creating world-class nationally recognized cocktail programs. Food writer with a distinctive Chef-driven voice and point of view.

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