What to Do With an Onion (or Garlic Clove) That Has Sprouted

Updated on March 20, 2017
An onion with shoots.
An onion with shoots. | Source

Has an Onion or Garlic Clove Sprouted in Your Refrigerator or Pantry?

You've probably come across this situation plenty of times— you bring home a bag of onions or some fresh whole garlic, and a week or two later, you notice that one or two (or all) of them have put out roots and green shoots. Can you still eat them or just throw them away? Can you plant them?

In this article I'll give you some helpful tips on what to do with onions or garlic when they've sprouted.

Can You Still Eat a Sprouted Onion or Garlic?

Probably. If the roots and shoots are still small, it's probably still perfectly good. Some people even like the taste of sprouted onion (they have a lot of protein, so they're popular with vegans), but some think the garlic shoots are too bitter. The roots aren't usually very green— they're white. Just chop the sprout off (unless you want to eat it— take a taste to decide), cut the onion or garlic clove in half, and remove any remnants of the shoots. Of course, you should also check for mold and rot, especially if the item in question has been sitting around in a cool, dark place for over a week. If there's only a little mold, just cut it out and eat the rest. If the onion or garlic looks black and/or feels mushy, though, throw that thing away.

Can You Plant a Sprouted Onion?

Most likely, the answer is yes! The only exception is if the onion is seriously consumed by mold or rot. If there's only a little, just chop off the bad bits.

Now you may be wondering, if I plant an onion or garlic clove, will I get more onions or garlic? With onions, unfortunately no, but with garlic, maybe. One thing you will get in either case is a lot of tasty green shoots which in my opinion are just as delicious, making planting that onion worth the trouble.

The same holds true for garlic, but instead of tasty green shoots (garlic shoots are bitter), you'll get gorgeous flowers.

Potato flower.
Potato flower. | Source

How to Plant a Sprouted Onion (and What to Expect)

  1. Select healthy-looking sprouted onions in 8"-12" pots, one per pot. Be sure to cut off any moldy, rotted, or pitted parts before planting, taking care to maintain the roots and the core of the bulb.
  2. Fill each pot with potting mix, leaving a couple of inches of space at the top.
  3. Make a hole in the center of the dirt that is about the width and depth of the onion.
  4. Carefully place each onion in a pot, covering them with soil so that the base of the shoots meet the surface of the soil.
  5. Press down gently but firmly on the soil to remove air pockets.
  6. Water thoroughly until water drains from the drainage holes.
  7. Place the pots in a shaded spot for a couple of weeks. Allow them to get a little bit of filtered light, but don't put them in the sun just yet. Their roots need time to grow and adjust.
  8. After a couple of weeks, you can slowly give them more sun— partial shade at first, then full sun.
  9. Harvest sprouts as needed. You can use onion sprouts just about everywhere you would use onion, and they also make a wonderful garnish.
  10. If your sprouts put up flowers, you can wait until the flowers go to seed, then save the seeds for planting next season (unlike the parent onion, these seeds will produce more onions if planted).

Flowering garlic.
Flowering garlic. | Source

How to Plant a Sprouted Garlic Clove (and What to Expect)

  1. To produce more bulbs, you can use either sprouted or unsprouted cloves, just make sure to plant unsprouted cloves "pointy-end" up, about 1/2" below the surface.
  2. Follow the first six items in instructions above, but know that you must let your plants think they've gone through winter if you want more garlic. You can achieve this naturally by planting them before the first frost, or artificially by putting them in the freezer for a couple weeks
  3. Once you've allowed them to go through winter (or "winter"), put them out in the sun to warm up.
  4. Keep the soil moist but not soaking throughout the growing process; it takes about 8 months for garlic to mature.
  5. You can use the sprouts during this period (if you enjoy that bitter taste), but only a little at a time, or you'll stunt the bulbs' growth.
  6. Prune back any flowering shoots that come up initially (this helps produce larger bulbs).
  7. If the bulbs aren't already in 8" or 12" pots, transplant them carefully once they've showed some signs of growth.
  8. You will know the garlic is ready to be dug up when the tops of most of the leaves have turned yellow.


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    • profile image

      Bill Carter 5 weeks ago

      I've planted them in my yard near other flowering plants and the oniony smell keeps the deer and the squirrels away.

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      cool 2 months ago

      ifi cut the sprouted leaves that grow on the garlic every three weeks, will the garlic bulb still grow

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      hey 3 months ago

      does sprout shoots regrow when cut?

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      Vikas dhama 4 months ago

      Excellent, thanks for this help

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      Kim Miller 8 months ago

      Do you have any knowledge on native persimon trees, male tree in particular?

    • profile image

      dead guy 11 months ago

      I sent one to school.

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      BuddysPal 13 months ago

      Excellent help. Thank you.

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      James Wasneechak 15 months ago

      I'd like to know about the type of soil to place in my container, the use of straw and how to divide up the sprouting sweet potato I have, in order to have a successful harvest.


      Jim Wasneechak

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      Burkle51 2 years ago

      can you start this process in the house as I live in NY State and it is cold and snowy here?