Sunday, July 21, 2013

Harvesting Onions

This weekend it was time to harvest our onions.  Most years we grow two or three varieties of onion from seed with the goal of planting enough onions to last until the next year's harvest.  This year with the weird weather not allowing us to get seed into the garden early enough, and with our thoughts on moving (how much stored produce do we really want to move across country) we planted a small number of onions from sets.  Well a small number for us anyway.

An onion set is a small onion bulb.  Some grower somewhere planted onion seeds and grew them for a while until each seed grew into an onion bulb about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter.  The grower harvested all these little bulbs, cured them, bagged them up, then sold them to a middlemen who sold them to a retailer who sold them to me. 

We took the bag of onion sets home, prepared a garden bed for them and planted them in the soil.  Two months (give or take) later the onions were ready to harvest.  Onions tell you when they are ready to harvest by falling over.  Garlic does the same thing.  Rather handy actually.  If you leave the onions in the ground after they fall over, it won't be long before all those green onion tops dry out and eventually blow away making it difficult to find the onions.  So I try to harvest before the tops dry out.
Onions laying down and ready to harvest
Harvesting onions is simple in a properly prepared bed.  Grab the neck of the onion as close to the top of the bulb as you can and gently pull.  Usually the onions pull out easily.  In the picture below you can see how few roots the onion bulb has.  While it was growing it had a much larger mass of roots. 
Pull gently
I put all the onions into trugs for easy hauling around the yard.

Onions harvested, now the real work begins
Now that the onions are all harvested, we have to do something with them.  If I only grew a few, I would just rinse them off and keep them in the kitchen to be used up.  But I have more than a few days worth of onions so I need a way to store them for a longer time.  In order to store onions, they need to be properly cured.  Curing is a process where the outer layer of the onion bulb and the neck of the onion (the place where the green top grows out of the bulb) is dried so that the onion inside stays usable for months and months.

I like to rinse the dirt off of the onions before I cure them.  First I laid the onions out on the driveway in a single layer.
Laid out and ready for a rinse
Next I rinsed the dirt off the onions with the hose.  My helper had great fun with this task.
My helper
As you can see from the before and after rinsing pictures below, this is not going to make the onions dirt free.  But it will make them a lot cleaner.
After - not perfect but much cleaner
Once the onions are all rinsed, I leave them on the driveway to dry out for a couple of hours. 
Rinsed off and left to dry
After the onions dried out on the driveway for a couple of hours it was time to tie them up in bunches.  Depending upon the size of the onions, I group them into bunches of 6 to 10 onions then tie up each bunch with twine.  I use 18 to 24 inches of twine for each bunch.  After each bunch is tied up, I cut off the green tops 8 to 10 inches or so above the twine. 

Tied and ready to cure
In the picture above you can see all the onions tied up in neat bunches ready to cure. 

The pile of onions above the bunches are onions that either did not have a green top to tie up (because I pulled the top off while trying to get the onion out of the ground) or were not really fit to be cured.  A few of the onions had really thick or big necks.  An onion with a large neck will not cure well.  Usually those onions rot after a month or so of harvest because the neck never dries out "sealing" the onion inside.  So this pile of onions I just move into the kitchen to be used up first.

The last step in curing the onions is to store them somewhere where they will get lots of air circulation and be able to dry out the outer layers and neck properly.  For us, this is our garage.  It is warm all summer and has ceiling fans running constantly.  I hang the onion bunches on a ladder in the garage and leave them there for 2 to 3 weeks until they are ready for storage in a cool pantry in our basement.  Someday I hope for a root cellar.  For more information about storing onions, see my Storing Onions post here.
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Shared with:
Creative Home and Garden HopClever Chicks Blog HopMore the Merrier MondayHomestead Barn HopTuesdays with a TwistWildcrafting WednesdayWow Us Wednesday(Not So) Wordless WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysHome and Garden ThursdaysTreasure Hunt ThursdayFarmgirl Friday Blog HopFreedom FridaysA Peek Into My ParadiseHome Sweet HomeRooted In ThymeFrom the Farm Blog Hop


  1. I've never grown onions other than just the scallion-type, so I had no idea what the process was for regular onions. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Once my parents left the onions in the ground over the winter and boy, were they strong! The last photo is so pretty I pinned it.

  3. I am growing onions for the first time and so glad to read that when the tops fall over, they're ready to pick! I thought I was losing them!

  4. I loved your article, it was very informative...would love it if you hopped on by our blog hop on Sunday...The Homesteaders Hop.

  5. We did our onions like this when we raised a lot of onions. Thanks for sharing this info. Enjoy your day and God bless.

  6. They are all so pretty! This really makes me want to have a veggie garden - a real one. I also enjoyed reading about the process; I learned some new things!

  7. I didn't know you had to cure the onions, but it makes perfect sense now that I think about it.

    Heidi’s Wanderings

  8. Thanks so much for sharing about harvesting onions at Simple & Sweet Fridays. Great way to dry them on the ladder, so pretty! New Follower!


  9. love this post, so helpful, I learned a few things. I see my other buds Jody and Stan above my comment lol, and I'm following too....anyone who can teach me anything I will follow....I will browse through your other posts. Am over from Home and Garden Thursdays, Kathy's party.

  10. I would love for you to share and link up at my weekly TGIF Link Party if you haven't already this week. Your favorite posts, most popular, recent or new! The party is open every Thursday night and closes Wednesday's at midnight. Followed by (Not SO) Wordless Wednesday!
    I would be honored if you join us and follow to stay connected Have a wonderful week!
    Hugs, Cathy

  11. 'Great tips! Thank you for linking to Tuesdays with a Twist! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  12. Oh what a wonderful onion harvest!! We did onions in the spring and only got about a dozen or so.....yours look great and they look so nice hanging together for curing too! We do this with our garlic for curing but we've never had much luck with onions. How long do you think your cured onions will keep?

  13. Well, I have learned a lot by reading this - important steps if one were to wish to grow their own onions - makes you appreciate them more! I am delighted that you shared with Home and Garden Thursday,

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