My Onion Is Green Inside: Should I Eat It?

Many people are familiar with cutting up an onion and discovering tinges of green, or even fully green layers, inside the vegetable. This can be a little unnerving – we all know we aren’t meant to eat the green parts on a potato, after all.

Green in an onion is usually harmless and can be the result of the onion getting a lot of light. The green parts may have a more bitter flavor than the white parts, but you don’t need to remove them, especially if you are cooking the onion.

Let’s explore why onions sometimes go green inside, and what you should do about it if this happens to you.

Why Do Onions Go Green Inside?

onions

A lot of people forget or don’t realize that an onion bulb is simply modified onion leaves – so the bulb is perfectly capable of producing chlorophyll. It does not normally do so because it is buried underground, encased in a skin, and not exposed to light. There is therefore no reason for the plant to put energy into producing chlorophyll in that area.

However, if the onion is exposed to light, either because it has grown partially above the ground or been left in the sun after harvesting, there is a chance that it will start to develop chlorophyll in the bulbous area because this will respond to the light. The more chlorophyll the plant has, the more energy it can produce. If your onion has been exposed to light, you might see:

  • A greenish tint around the top of the onion, where the skin splits and the leaves come out
  • Green going further down in the onion, especially if the outer brown skin has been torn off
  • A green shoot in the center of the onion, where it is attempting to produce new leaves

None of these things indicate that the onion is bad, harmful, or otherwise inedible. You can cook and eat the onion perfectly safely, including the green parts. They won’t hurt you, any more than eating other plants containing chlorophyll would hurt you.

However, some people do say that green onions are bitter because chlorophyll will change the flavor. If you are eating the onions raw, you may wish to remove any green parts so that you are not consuming the bitter areas. Taste one and decide for yourself whether you enjoy the flavor or whether it is unpleasant.

What About Cooked Onion Turning Green?

Sometimes, people find that their previously white onion turns green when they cook it, and this can be alarming too. However, there is a simple explanation for it. Onions are naturally acidic, and they contain pigments that will change color if they are exposed to an alkaline environment.

That means that if you cook your onions with any foods that have a pH value above 7.0, you might see the onions starting to turn a little green. The higher the pH value is, the greener the onions will become. You don’t need to worry if this happens; it’s not a dangerous reaction and it will not affect the flavor or texture of the food.

If you’ve ever cooked onions with something like beans, you may have seen this happening. The green color isn’t leaching out of the beans – it’s chemicals within the onion reacting to the new environment. This can be a fun thing to show to your kids if it happens when you’re making dinner.

Why Do Onions Produce Green Sprouts?

You may also have seen an onion produce a long, green sprout from its center, and this can affect the inside of the onion too. This usually happens when the onion is left for too long and is starting to go off. You may notice that the bulb becomes shriveled and mushy, and starts to contract into itself.

This is because it is putting its energy and nutrients into the new shoot. In the natural world, this new shoot would push above ground, into the sunlight, and start photosynthesizing and producing energy for the plant. In your pantry, that’s not going to happen, and it’s a clear sign that the onion is past its best and needs to be used up or thrown away.

Some people cut the shoot off and use it, and it’s perfectly safe to do this, but it may not have a particularly pleasant flavor.

How Can You Stop Onions From Turning Green?

Often, greenness is formed during the growth or processing stage, and will already be present in your onions when you purchase them from the store. However, you can reduce the risk of the onions turning green by keeping them in the dark when you get them home.

Without light, there is no reason for the plant to trigger the production of chlorophyll in the lower leaves, and the bulb should stay crisp and white for longer. If you leave the onions in the sun, however, they are much more likely to start producing chlorophyll and turning green.

You may wish to keep your onions in a paper bag or an opaque container once you have got them home. This should help to maximize their freshness and ensure that they don’t turn green inside.

Are Some Onions Naturally Green?

Some onions are much greener than others. If you have ever purchased shallots or green onions, for example, you’ll see a lot more green in them, although they do still have a white bulb.

Leeks are another member of the allium family, and these are predominantly green. Similarly, chives belong to the same family and we generally only eat the green part, although they do have a white bulb below ground as well.

Conclusion

Green coloration in an onion is nothing to worry about; it is just the plant producing chlorophyll in the parts of its leaves that are usually white. This may indicate that the onion has been exposed to too much light, but the onion is still completely safe to consume. Cut up and use green parts in cooking.

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for over five years! I've set up this blog because I'm passionate about veganism and living a more spiritually fulfilling life where I'm more in tune with nature. Hopefully, I can use Vegan Foundry as a channel to help you out on your own journey!