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…
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.
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, polytunnel 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 mould 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 shrivelled 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 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.
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 metre. 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 centre 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.