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Harvesting, curing and storing onions


Storage onions are a variety of onions that last in a cool place during the winter months. Learn what varieties to grow for food storage and tips on harvesting, curing, and storing onions for winter food storage.
Each year a variety of onions mature rapidly, including scallops, and other varieties are eaten fresh.

However, most of the onions I grow store onions that will last through the winter until the next growing season. Store onions to add flavor to winter soups, bone broths, chili, shells, and scallops.

How to choose onions to grow for food storage

When choosing to grow onions for winter storage, select varieties that are known for their long-term storage capabilities.

Onions are classified as "short day" onions or "long day onions". We grow long-day onions in North American plant hardiness zones 6 and cold. These are induced into the bulb when sunlight increases for 14-16 hours.

Cobra, Stuttgart, and Redwing are my main onions for long-term storage in the winter. These varieties work wonderfully for winter soups, chilies, stews, and fries.

The first seeds sown for the growing season were onions. The seeds are planted under growing lights in January or February, so they have plenty of time to grow before the bulbs form.

Can also be purchased online or grown from onion plant transplants or onion sets at your local garden center. Here in the north, onion seedlings or onion sets are planted in the garden in early spring, usually growing in April and throughout the summer.

Did you know that every bare, green leaf represents a ring in the onion? The growth of strong, healthy leaves before the bulbs mature will result in larger onions when they are mature and ready for harvest.

When to harvest onions

Onions can be harvested at any time for fresh food, but keep the onions fully ripe to ensure tremendous storage capacity.

Let you know when the onion grows. You will start to see the tops folding upwards. Onion stalks bend and stop directing energy to the leaves.

At first, there will be one or two plants. Eventually, the rest will follow. Depending on the type, this usually happens in the first few weeks of August in my Maine garden.

Once the tops fall off, the onions are ready for harvest. Stop watering and wait for the bulbs to dry out.

How to harvest onions

Once you have determined that your onions are done growing, it is time to harvest them. Choose a cloudy day to minimize the sun damaging the bulbs while you work.

The easiest way to harvest large quantities of onions is to carefully loosen the soil under the onions using a digging fork.

When the soil is loose, wrap it around the neck of the onion stalk and gently pull them out, trying not to injure the roots, stems, or bulbs as damage will shorten the storage life of the onion.

If the sky is cloudy, I like to spread onions on my garden fence so any soil that is still sticking to the bulbs can dry out and shake before bringing the onions inside. When the sun goes out, spread the onion on a dry, shady area away from direct sunlight.

Curing onion

Curing the onion dries the outer layers and creates a protective wrap around the bulb.

Onions heal better in a shady, dry, and cool place. It may be in a shed or on a porch covered by direct sunlight.

Spread or hang the onion so the air circulates around the bulbs so it can dry evenly. Our summers are humid, so I usually bring onions inside and place them on the wire shelves in the basement.

Depending on the amount of moisture, it can take several weeks to a month to cure. Onions heal when their outer skins turn into paper, forming leaves around the neck, and when the leaves shrink and turn brown.

Cut the stem an inch from the bulb and test one. The center of the cut should not show any green. If it is, the onion is not fully healed. Allow extra week.

How to store onions

When the onion is fully cured and all the leaves are dry and crisp, clean the bundles before storing them and take them out to sort. Use scissors and cut the stems an inch or two clean from the bulbs and trim the roots. Gently brush the bulbs with your fingers to release the extra soil that is still sticking to the papyrus skin. Sometimes, the outer layer will fall off. This is fine, but I try not to damage the skins except for the first layer.

Carefully inspect the sliced ​​onion. Any stains, bruises, or damage to onions can affect their storage capacity. Set these aside and use them first.

Store cured onions loosely in baskets or hang in mesh bags in a cool, dark, and dry place during the winter. The optimum storage temperature is about 35-40˚F. Different onion varieties and storage conditions can affect how long they last.

Cobra and Stuttgart usually last me a long time and usually start to soften or germinate in April. Check the onions every few weeks for signs of tender areas forming or sprouting.

Cut off any bad parts and use the onion now, then freeze or dehydrate the onion slices and onion powder.

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