I was talking to a friend the other day about growing onions. For a few years now (I think this is the third year), I've grown onions in my container garden from already sprouted onions. You know...the ones you buy and then forget about until one day there's something green growing in your pantry? On more than one occasion I've actually eaten the sprouted onion, preserving the growing parts (sprout and roots) and then planted it and grown it again, essentially eating the same onion twice. So, I was telling my friend how to grow sprouted onions because I've found it quite easy (and also fairly simple) to do, when I thought, Hey, I should write a tutorial!
I took a bunch of photographs of the process, and then out of curiosity, I did an internet search for growing sprouted onions, to see if I could learn anything else about how other people do this. Here's where the perplexing part comes in: almost all (I'd say approximately 95%) of the question and answer pages I found said that: 1. You cannot eat onions that have sprouted; they are rotten, and 2. If you plant a sprouted onion, it will produce flowers (which you can then harvest for seeds to plant next year) but it will not produce an onion bulb that you can eat.
I took a photo of last year's onion plants, and I even have a photograph of one of them post-harvest in my beef stew recipe. What I'm sayin' is, I know it works, and I'm very curious to know why it's working for me and not for so many other people. (I'm not that great with plants, so that can't be it.) Maybe it's about the climate? Or the type of onion I used?
Well, I've never tried this process with red onions before, so this will be quite the experiment (now that I know this has been working for me against great odds).
Here's what I do, in case you want to try your hand at it, too:
- Buy some onions and let them sprout in your pantry or a drawer...wherever, really. I actually bought these on sale, pre-sprouted from the farmer's market.
- Peel the outer papery layers, like you would if you were going to chop the onion, taking care to preserve any roots that might be growing between layers:
- Cut into the onion, nearly to the center, trying to avoid the sprouting center portion:
- Remove the rest of that half of the onion, exposing the center:
- Carefully cut around the base, removing the rest of the second half of the bulb, until you just have the center left:
- You can eat the portion that you removed, as long as it hasn't gotten mushy. (My husband ate some of this one raw and said it was delicious and sweet.) You might want to discard any parts that have started to get kind of "leafy" (like the dark purple tops of the center of this onion).
- Take your sprouted onion center(s) and plant them in soil, with the white roots down and the green part sticking up. (I'm not saying this to be a jerk—I think bulbs are confusing.)
- Water them, give them sun, and watch them grow! I usually pull mine up when the green parts have dried out at the end of the season, but you can pull them up any time after you see the onion bulb starting to stick up above the soil.
- You can also eat the green shoots (these are called Spring onions or scallions) though I have never done that with mine.
I'm very curious to know, have you ever grown onions from sprouted ones? Did you have the same results that I have had, or did your onion grow flowers? Do you have any gardening insights as to why I've gotten so lucky with onions in the past? I can't wait to hear!