Why Is There an Onion Inside This Onion?


Waiter, there’s an onion inside my onion. Photo: thepumpernickel/Instagram

What’s going on with this onion? That’s what I wondered last week, when the onion I thought was destined for my lazy weeknight dinner of shakshuka ending up looking like this. Just to be safe, I chucked it in the trash — and then immediately questioned that decision.

It turns out that onions like this aren’t unheard of, as Yahoo Food readers were quick to point out on Facebook. To find out more, we turned to Barbara A. Ambrose, the associate curator in plant genomics at The New York Botanical Garden.

“The white layers of the onion are actually modified leaves,” Ambrose explained in an email. Most flowering plants, including onions, have “vegetative buds” secreted inside these leaves, which “depending on many developmental and physiological factors … will develop into whole shoots.” That’s what happened to my onion, though it’s a relatively rare occurrence. The phenomenon could be the result of any number of things, like the amount of daylight and temperature to which the onion was exposed while it was growing in the field.

All things considered, Ambrose assured me that my strange-looking onion “would have been fine to eat.” Good to know for next time, I suppose!

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Have you ever seen an onion like the one above? Tell us about it below!