The Backyard

The Backyard

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Storing Onions 101

After 20 years of growing onions, hubby and I feel like we've finally mastered the process of growing, harvesting, and storing the great harvest.  Last year I posted on our success and you can read it here.  This year, we've had the same success with possibly even less rotting.  Yesterday, I went through ALL the onions (that's part of the storage process: routinely going through them all to make sure none are going bad)  and found one -- only one -- rotted fruit that ended up in the compost.   Each year, I plant  about 400 plants.  That's the first step - I found plants to be better keepers than sets.  The onion variety is important too and my choice for Central Pennsylvanina is Sweet yellow or white Spanish and Torpedo Red.  I had little luck with Walla Walla which is supposed to be a great keeper.  This year I'm trying Candy too, so we'll see how they hold up to storage.  I buy from Dixondale Onions and they have nice charts to help you pick the best storing onion for your region.  Onions like a wet, cool spring and a hot dry early summer when they are bulbing up.  The past two summers in Pennsylvania were perfect for onion growing.  When to pull the onions was always the not-sure part for me until the past two years.  I used to pull when the tops completely dried and let the onions lay in the garden for 2-3 days as noted in a 2008 post.   I stopped doing that two years ago and have had much better luck by pulling as soon as the tops fall over and immediately laying on the screens under the shade canopy.  I then let the tops completely dry and when I can easily pull them off, its time for storage.  It usually takes about a month of curing.   I also make sure there are no soft spots.  Then it's basket time.  The onions are weighed, then stacked in wire baskets for storing.  Our cement cellar averages temperatures between 55 degrees on the coldest winter days and 70 degrees on the hottest summer day.  The onions seem to like that range and will keep until after Christmas.  If I notice some going bad, I cut out the bad parts, cook the remainder, then freeze the cooked onions.  The frozen onions are perfect for soups, pierogies, and other recipes.  We've learned to not waste an onion.  This year, I'm up to 78 pounds of harvested onions with possibly another 100 pounds to get to storage yet.  We noticed onions at the local big-box store were $1.79 a pound.  Based on those numbers, we have about $322 worth of onions in storage minus the investment of $20 for the plants (I can't include the shade canopy and homemade screens in the expenses because they were purchased/built for another use).  I'd say we are saving money on growing onions, which was the ultimate goal of having such a huge garden.  We'll always be onion growers - we love the onion.


Jenny said...

Thank you for the tips on storage. I also planted onions for storage this year but not nearly enough and they did not do well in size so hope for much better result next year.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that dixondale link... I've been looking for a good onion supplier.

Dave said...

I've come a long way in growing garlic, but I still have a lot to learn about onions. And now I know where to come for answers!

This year's hot dry spring and hot dry summer didn't help our onions any. I gave them water, but I couldn't do anything about the heat. I will check out your onion source and their growing recommendations. Thanks for the tips!

Robin said...

Great onion harvest and great post! My onions were horrible this year. Since the plots weren't ready, they didn't get planted in time.

Thanks for the dixondale link!!

TS said...

What great and informative post! I can only dream of having such beautiful onions in my garden! My first try growing onions from seeds wasn't too successful, but if it took you 20 years to perfect it, I don't feel so bad. I am anxious to try again next year!