A timely question came in to Ask Gardenerd this week: “How do you harvest and store red onions? – Pete”
Hi Pete, great question. It’s that time of year, if you planted bulb onions in the fall, to harvest them for storage. If you’re just planting them now, you’ll harvest in late summer or fall. Red, yellow and white bulb onions all follow the same rules when it comes to harvesting and storing. Let’s look at how to harvest them first.
When onions are done, they’ll tell you. The neck breaks and they flop over. Above is a yellow onion that is ready to harvest. Here’s a red onion doing the same thing:
On occasion, depending on weather and other stress factors, onions will send up a flower stalk instead of breaking at the neck. Pick those onions right away if that happens.
Onions that flower need to be used soon. They generally won’t store well. So you may want to chop them up and freeze them for later use if you have a lot of onions that flowered.
Once onions that didn’t flower are ready to pick, pull the onion and leave it in the sun for a few days to cure. Farmers often pull the onions and set them right back down on the soil for a few days. This dries the outer layers and encourages development of that papery sheath you see on onions. We usually set ours on a table to dry out in the sun.
Next, we cure them for storage. Some onions store better than others. It depends on the variety. Here’s a previous blog post that will help guide you toward onion storage success. Essentially, you want to cure them until the point where the roots and stems are brown and dry, out of direct sunlight. Then you can trim the ends and store them as long as your variety allows. Some need to be used in a few weeks, others store for months.
We just harvested some onions ourselves and they are drying out in the sun still. Next we’ll move them indoors on newspaper to cure.
Thanks for writing in, Pete. We hope this helps you enjoy your onion harvest to the fullest.