How to Harvest and Store Onions

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Onions harvested and ready for storing

Beautiful, bulbous onions form the bedrock of many culinary creations. If you’ve grown them this summer you’ll probably want to store some to use later on. Read on or watch our video to discover how to correctly harvest, cure and store your onions to enjoy them well into winter…

Harvesting Onions

Onions are ready to harvest as soon as they reach a useable size. However, for storage, your cue to start the harvesting process is when the leaves begin to flop over or turn brown at the edges. After a week like this carefully dig them out of the ground using a fork. Lay the bulbs on the soil surface, or on a wire rack for better ventilation, to dry in the sun for a further week.

If the weather is wet dry them under cover instead, for instance in a well-ventilated greenhouse or tunnel. Always handle onions carefully to prevent bruising.

Curing onions

Curing Onions

In order to store onions you’ll need to ‘cure’ them, which simply means drying the outer skins fully. To do this, move your onions under cover. You can dry onions on racks or on layers of newspaper in a greenhouse, hoop house or cold frame. This also works for other alliums such as shallots and garlic.

Spread the onions out as much as possible and make sure there is plenty of circulating air to wick away moisture and to prevent mold or rotting. The onions may take a further two weeks to dry out. They are ready to store when the skins are papery, the leaves are completely shriveled up, and the roots are wiry and dry.

At this stage you should cut off the roots and remove any loose skin. If you want to store your bulbs as onion strings, cut the stems to within two or three inches (5-7cm) of the neck of the bulb. If not, cut the stem to the neck.

Onions drying on greenhouse bench

Storing Onions

Onions should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space out of direct sunlight. A garage or unheated room in the house is ideal. Don’t store any thick-necked or soft bulbs; use these up as soon as possible instead.

Individual onions can be placed – carefully – into net bags. Use purpose-sold vegetable storage nets or netting sacks used to hold, for example, oranges. The bags should then be hung up off the ground. Check the nets periodically and remove any onions that have gone bad.

Braided onion string

How to Braid an Onion String

Onion strings are a very practical and attractive way to store onions. To make one, begin by cutting a length of string to about three to four feet, or a meter. Tie the two ends together to form a loop, then hang the loop from a hook to begin working.

Insert the first onion through the center of the loop then bend the stem around the back of the string to return it through the loop. Push the onion right down to the bottom of the loop to anchor it into position. Now begin working in additional onions in exactly the same way – placing the stem through the loop, weaving it around the back of the string and returning it back through the loop and pushing down to sit snugly against the previous onion. Rotate the position of each additional onion so they sit neatly in a spiral. Hang your completed string in a cool, dry place and enjoy the onions as needed, remembering to take onions from the top of the string rather than the bottom.

And there you have it! Preparing onions for storage is very easy and will keep you in bulbs right through the winter. If you have any other ideas for storing onions then please let us know – just leave us a comment below.

Bugs, Beneficial Insects and Plant Diseases

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner (for PC & Mac) or if you'd prefer an app for your mobile or tablet device, our iPad & iPhone app Garden Plan Pro is available on the App Store here.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments



Comments

 
"I used to use onion sets and the results was I got marble size onions..a neighbor gave me onions she started from seed which looked like grass growing is a small flat...I found these grew very well and I had much better results in size. Therefore I now grow all my onions from seed.I start them several weeks before planting them in the garden. I prefer the Patterson variety that Johnny's Seeds sell...Stores very well."
john boulay on Sunday 24 September 2017
"I always use onion sets now!Seed growing without a greenhouse too hit and miss.My set came from the pound shop!Just harvested 24 very big nicely formed onions with 2% failure.Very early this year in Cornwall.Taste good,quite strong and next year I will hopefully get 100% by feeding correctly. Three onions had thick stems which is caused by lack of nutrients.Still edible though.Great weather for curing.Hopefully my Cara and Maris spuds will be ready to sunbathe soon.They are huge but I`ll wait for the foliage to go yellow.GL "
Anthony on Wednesday 25 July 2018
"Sounds like you're doing really well done there in Cornwall Anthony - congratulations on the magnificent onion harvest!"
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 25 July 2018
"cheers ben,yes everything goes mad and now the rain has come giant tomato plants ,100 runner beans a day ,huge beetroot,etc..I reckon we can get two harvests of some of these crops down here .IE when harvesting starts you can plant again and just get another in.Very happy despite the very cold start this year.(unusual) I plant spuds in early January normally.Trying Garlic this autumn."
Anthony Martin on Monday 30 July 2018
"Sounds like you've got plenty to keep you busy (and well fed) there Anthony - great stuff! You plant your spuds very early indeed!"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 31 July 2018
"my onions are huge but inverted at the base, nice and strong flavour but i'm not sure they will store well. they have been drying for a couple of weeks. my shallots are as big and round as shop bought onions so I will have those if the onions do save. "
melanie on Saturday 18 August 2018
"Good luck with your onions Melanie. It's worth trying to store them, then prioritise using up the onions you're uncertain about, leaving the solid, well-formed onions for last."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 20 August 2018

Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

 
   
(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)



Captcha


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)



By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions