I just harvested some scallions from the garden, where it's getting bit chilly (late November in Seattle).

After chopping them, I realized that their insides were covered in a gelatinous, slippery, viscous goo!

What is it? Is it safe to eat?

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    @BlessedGeek: Thanks for the reassurance. I'm right in the OP's part of the world, we eat green onions more often than yellow, white, red and sweet combined, and have never seen this slime in such brightly colored ones. Maybe it's the lighting, but when I've encountered slime in green onions, it's added a grayish, duller shade. – MargeGunderson Nov 22 '12 at 2:53
  • The cells have lysed, and the cellulose covering is damaged. That leaves tasty, yummy good food out in the open where any bug or fungus that comes along can feast on it. IOW, it's a little dangerous to eat the stuff. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 16 '17 at 15:28
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Normally, people associate slime with "inedible" because some bacterial colonies can build up slime on spoiled food. But there are plants which naturally produce slime, and it is as edible as any other part of the same plant. Slimes are most common in algae, but I have also seen them in other plants such as hyacinth greens, and scallions have it too, although in normally not that much. But if you mash a "dry" scallion or the greens of a typical yellow onion, they still feel slimy, while other alliums become slimy on cooking, for example leeks.

Physically, slime is just a special kind of gel. As long as it is not of bacterial origin, it is not a sign of spoilage, and it is highly improbable that a living green plant without signs of sickness will be full of colonies of spoilage bacteria. So, I would declare it good to eat.

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    Specifically, this stuff is mucilage, and AFAIK it's considered a desirable trait in some other edible plants, like okra and cactus. – Josh Caswell Dec 10 '12 at 1:43
  • @JoshCaswell People actually like okra being slimy? – JAB Oct 20 '17 at 19:54

I found an interesting discussion on the subject that is more anecdotal than hard facts but the consensus is that if the onions are fresh and not wilted or obviously spoiled, the goo is normal and edible, albeit a bit gross, and you can try just rinsing them thoroughly.

I believe it is how the plant stores energy for the winter etc. I've typically seen it show up only after a recent watering. so if the plant hasn't been watered recently before pulling up or cutting, you normally won't see that.

  • Hello Davey — your post adds additional information, but doesn't answer the OP's core question of whether the slime is safe to eat. Perhaps you'd like to edit your answer, so as to include your opinion about that. – ElmerCat Dec 25 '15 at 23:39

I believe this gel is naturally occurring in spring onions.It does look a bit yuk but just rinse it out of the hollow stems if you don't want to eat it. Nothing to do with G.M.O.

I have no idea what is actually inside the gel but I believe it to be plant derived. FYI The gel is on the inside of the plant NOT growing on the outside. I have been eating it forever because it is packed with green onion flavor! It's rare that green onions in the store have this gel because they are often more on the dehydrated side in my opinion or perhaps they are grown not to be so jelly because consumers might find it weird. I look at the gel as a delicacy and tend to use the gooier parts for cooking rather than the drier shaft if the recipe calls for limited quantities of green onions. I am perfectly fine. Not even have I turned a shade of green :-P

Another example that I can use for the seattle-ite is you know when you cut a fresh Washington state onion and it produces that white milk upon the first slice? It's the juices from the onion which is very juicy cause its fresh. You don't always see this with other onions because they are probably not that fresh even though they are perfectly edible and flavorful. Hope this helps!

When you've cut off the tops you can see down the tubes, if slime is visibly present then isolate and discard or rinse concern away, continue cleaning/prepping as before. Then you can move on too.

Lots of plants have gelatinous fibre.I'd check on this,but if it is,it's good for you.It grips to old debris in your intestine as it passes and cleans it out.

The only time I've seen this slime is from the green onions I've grown myself, so unless the big companies are breaking into my garden and poisoning my food I think it's fair to say it's natural.

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    "natural" and "safe to eat" are not mutually exclusive, so this doesn't answer the question. – Luciano Mar 26 at 8:29

I have bin a chef for 35 years & have never seen slime like this on any of the thousands of green onion i have prepared until today .& anyone that tells me this is normal is lying,slime has bin & always will be a sign that the food is not eatable . In my opinion this is another product of food engineering (AKA: G.M.O) & that is something that no one in the world should be consuming or ingesting & should be avoided at all cost we should eating vegetables that are naturally grown in organic gardens & not this poison the big companies call food

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    This was grown by my mom in her garden, and is completely organic :) – Emmett Aug 25 '15 at 0:41
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    The rant on GMO and "big companies" doesn't answer the question, does it? I suggest you take the tour and visit our help center to get a better understanding of how this site works - accusing others of lying isn't done here. We politely disagree. And I can assure you, plenty of users have seen this slime in their organic, home-grown onions. Me included. – Stephie Aug 25 '15 at 9:49

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