If you’ve ever seen sprouted onions in your home, you’ve probably wondered whether they were still OK to eat. It’s little wonder why: Those green shoots popping out of the bulb don’t exactly look tasty. But then again, just because other pieces of produce have sprouted doesn’t necessarily mean they should be tossed out. After all, experts actually encourage us to eat sprouted garlic — and certain sprouted potatoes can also be consumed if you remove the sprouts.
Unfortunately, experts can’t say the same about sprouted onions. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), we should “reject cooking onions that have started to sprout or have soft or moist spots.” If you’re feeling disappointed by this news, it’s worth noting that most people who have tried sprouted onions have said they’re not too tasty anyway. According to Cook’s Illustrated, taste-testers of gently-cooked sprouted onions “found the sprouted alliums less sweet and flavorful” than un-sprouted ones. Furthermore, the sprouts themselves were described as “unpleasantly bitter.” So, in other words, if you’ve never eaten sprouted onions, you’re probably not missing out on much.
Here’s the good news: It’s pretty easy to prevent onions from sprouting in the first place. According to The National Onion Association, proper storage is key here. Be sure to store onions in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Ideally, your storage temperature will be somewhere between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. As tempting as it might be to wrap your onions in plastic, this will decrease the circulation and, thus, the onion’s shelf life. Oh, and another thing: Avoid storing onions near potatoes, or any other pieces of produce that release moisture.
If stored properly for best results, your onions should be good to use within four weeks. But wait, what if you already made a huge mistake with onion storage or forgot entirely about a batch of onions that is sprouting at this very moment? You can still save them: SFGate published an extensive how-to for planting sprouted onions so that none of your plantable bulbs have to go to waste again.
Psst: Now that you know how to make these alliums last longer, you can get the most out of onions around your home in ways that have nothing to do with cooking.