My girlfriend sliced into an onion this evening to find this,

weird onion

…this is weird to me. There are very few layers, the innermost layer was exceedingly thick, and it's hollow. For reference, I'm used to an onion looking like this:

normal onion

(apologies on the quality) Not hollow, many layers (probably like 10-12 as opposed to the weird onions 5), normal layer thicknesses.

What caused my "weird" onion to look the way it does? Is it safe to eat?

(Both onions looked about the same with the skin on. Not mushy, not too much damage to the outer layers, nothing to tip us off as to what we'd find…)

2 Answers 2


Was this onion by any chance purchased from a local farmer's market or grower?

I have grown onions that did this, experimenting with over-wintering onions and allowing them a 2nd growth, with onions that I thought too small to harvest in fall so let them keep going. The experiment was a failure. Most rotted, but some did this, produced an onion that looked fine, but few, leathery layers and hollow or growth in the middle. Taste was fine, a bit strong, but texture was less than pleasant. Some flies and disorders like milky rot will also hollow them, but a high share of the time will also result in goo or slime and I have not seen the thick layers associated with those conditions, but that is strictly personal experience. And, it could easily be an individual mutant or bolted plant.

Any stress while growing, too much or too little water, heat, light can cause a plant to bolt and go to full maturity before it should. In you case, to my personal eye, the onion looks like one that went to full maturity rather than a disease. We actually eat many items, like onions and garlic before they are fully mature. In both of these items, blooms are typically removed to try to delay the plant from fully maturing. This helps to produce bigger bulb and clove heads. In the case of onions, if the onion fully matures, rot occurs or a product similar to what you have. Only a guess, but what my thinking would be is an onion that was missed when top buds were removed, or one that fully matured without bothering to bloom.

  • "Was this onion by any chance purchased from a local farmer's market or grower?": Nope; both onions pictured in the question came from the same bin on the same day at the same Safeway (a grocery store chain in California).
    – Thanatos
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 2:57

That onion is definitely strange, a hollow center and fewer, thick layers are the sign that something has not gone right when it was growing. Often anomalies are the symptom of the different flies and rusts that can attack onions and other members of the allium family. This doesn't necessarily make them unsafe, unless they smell bad, are mushy or slimy they should be perfectly fine to eat.

On the other hand the idea of eating a nuclear mutant of an onion might not appeal to you, in which case I wouldn't blame you for discarding it and using another one.

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