swiftly sprouting onions
July 1, 2005 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Why do onions sprout?

Recently, onions that I've been buying sprout within a week of purchase. I've never really had this problem before, and all I can find from google is that they should keep for a much longer time if stored correctly (e.g. in a "cool, dry, place"). I've varied the locations that I've been storing them in (on the counter, in a cabinet) and this hasn't made any difference that I could tell. I've been having a similar problem with garlic. My apartment stays fairly cool, and doesn't seem particularly humid to me (I've certainly lived in more humid places than this, where it seemed that onions kept longer). I thought it might be the kinds of onions available right now, but I didn't find anything via google to support this, and I don't remember having this problem at this time of year last year (though I was living somewhere different then). What can I do differently?
posted by advil to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
It can also have a lot to do with how they were stored and how long they were at the store before you got them. I know some produce I buy at the supermarket tends to last longer some times then the stuff I buy at the little fruit and veg. stand on the corner. Keep in mind most produce can have a long trip between the field and your kitchen.
posted by Captain_Science at 5:56 PM on July 1, 2005

Are you buying them all from the same store or chain? Maybe the way they or their supplier ship, handle or store the onions ends up making them extra-sprouty?

Apparently this is a problem that people do work on.
posted by Opposite George at 5:57 PM on July 1, 2005

My mother in law keeps her onions in the cheese drawer of her fridge. That might help.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:51 PM on July 1, 2005

I have had the same exact thing happen recently. What I decided was that the onions sprouted because they were organic, which I hadn't bought before. Could that be the case in your situation?

I don't think they taste any different after sprouting. I just cut off the sprout and carry on.
posted by acridrabbit at 6:57 PM on July 1, 2005

Could it be that these ones aren't irradiated?
posted by furtive at 8:24 PM on July 1, 2005

Are you buying fresh onions? Most people are used to storage onions, which have been air dried, making the outer layers of skin smooth and shiny. These onions keep longer. Fresh onions, on the other hand, have very thin skins, and do not have the papery dry feel of storgage onions. These onions will sprout fairly quickly.
posted by Nothing at 9:17 PM on July 1, 2005

Also, this is the time of year when root vegetables are in shortest supply and are likely to be older when they are sold. They've probably already been in storage all winter, and by buying them and taking to your home, which is most likely warmer and moister than their storage container, you've lulled them out of dormancy and encouraged them to start sprouting.

So hey, it's just the time of year. Cook with stuff that's in season and you'll have this problem less. Green onions/scallions are a suggestion.
posted by Miko at 10:46 PM on July 1, 2005

Maybe it's the light? Since onions and garlic store nutrients necessary for new plants, light is a signal to them to start growing. Try putting them in a dark place.

Otherwise, use the sprouts. My mom sometimes put them in soups right before they are served. It makes them smell really good.
posted by state fxn at 11:34 PM on July 1, 2005

Make sure that you are not storing your onions with your potatoes. Each gives off a gas (ethylenes of some sort, IIRC) that hastens the development process in the other.
posted by briank at 5:52 AM on July 2, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers! My guess now is that it's a combination of many of the factors mentioned above. I have been buying more organic onions lately, and it's possible that I have been buying some fresh (vs. dry) onions (I didn't previously know the difference), etc. So I'll just try to store them better, and be patient until they are more in season.

Otherwise, use the sprouts.

Thanks, I didn't know I could actually make use of them!

Make sure that you are not storing your onions with your potatoes. Each gives off a gas (ethylenes of some sort, IIRC) that hastens the development process in the other.

I haven't been doing this, but do you know (in the case that you read this thread again) if any other fruits/vegetables give off this gas?
posted by advil at 2:51 PM on July 2, 2005

Apples, pears, and bananas give off ethylene.
posted by acridrabbit at 7:24 AM on July 3, 2005

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