Someone once asked me how I made my tomato sauce. As I began to describe the process, he nodded sagely. Every good recipe, he said, must begin by cooking some onions and garlic.
While I’m not sure that I’d like onions with my breakfast cereal, I agree to a large degree. Onions and garlic are two of the mainstays of my kitchen. They’re delicious, and they’re some of the best seasoning for sauces. Many onions like the Walla Walla sweet onion are also amazing fresh, and you can use them in salads or on a sandwich without fear.
Harvesting Onions for Storage
If you’re growing onions in the garden, you may discover that you have a lot of onions on your hands. The first thing you need to do is plant for success. When you’re sowing your onions, look for varieties that advertise themselves as fall and winter storage onions. These onions are usually ready for harvest in the fall. These strong-flavored onions will last through the winter. Varieties include Ebenezer, Yellow Globe, Wethersfield, and Southport Red Globe onions.
Like garlic, onions are ready to harvest when the top begins to dry out. Try to keep the soil dry before you harvest your onions. That will help them move out of the soil easily and dry and store without chunks of soil falling off. Place your onions in a dry, somewhat warm area away from direct sunlight. Let them “cure” for a few weeks. At this point, the stems will no longer be green.
Before you move your onions into storage, check them for bruises, nicks, and other problems. Only the best onions should go into storage.
After you’ve culled out any problem onions, you can either clip off the stems an inch or so above the bulb, or you can braid them together into a pretty onion braid. This also makes a beautiful harvest gift!
Place your storage onions in a cool, dry place. The humidity should not be more than 70% – any more and you may get moldy onions. The temperature should not be more than 50 degrees F, or your onions may sprout. Hang your onions so that they have good air flow. Old pantyhose or reused mesh produce bags work well for this. If you use pantyhose, you can make a knot between each bulb. That way, the bulbs stay separate and have good air flow. This also prevents any problems from spreading between onions.
When you have food in storage, check it regularly. The last thing you want to see is a single goopy, damaged onion that rots an entire set of onions!
Storing Damaged Onions
If you have onions that don’t quite make the cut, you can use them in the winter as well. You just need to be a bit more creative! If you don’t mind an onion fragrance in your home, you can dehydrate onions to use for soup stock over the winter. A tip: while you’ll wash your dehydrator sheets between uses, I prefer to work with savory and sweet foods on different dehydrator sheets so that my prunes don’t taste like onions and garlic. See How to Dehydrate Onions for more info!
Another way that I store onions is to process them into other foods. I love to make tomato sauce for the winter, and often I have a lot of squishy tomatoes and way too many onions. I chop the onions fine, then boil them in the sauce until it has a lovely taste. All winter, I can use the sauce that I’ve made.
What’s your favorite recipe? If it uses onions and you can freeze it, make some extra and store it for the winter so that you’ll have a nice homemade meal on a cold winter’s day.
Onion Tips that Won’t Make You Cry
- How to (Easily) Freeze Green Onions
- How to Avoid Crying When Chopping Onions
- Make an Onion Garden from Your Scraps
- How to Re-Grow Green Onions Year Round
- Harvesting and Storing Onions
If onions are one of your go-to seasonings, how do you plan to store them for the winter?