May 16, 2012

Harvesting & Curing Onions

Holy onions, Batman!

"Red Burger" Onions

I've had my share of trouble growing onions and I find them incredibly confusing from a gardening standpoint (more on that later), but this year I got lucky. Back in October I picked up a six-pack each of red and white onions from Davis Lumber (Kelly's Nursery), with lots of tiny plants in each cell.

November, about a month after planting

March, about five months after planting

In the past most of my onions have either bolted (produced flower stems too early) or rot in the ground, so this bumper crop is a first. The great thing about onions, and the reason I like to grow them even though they're cheap at the store, is you can harvest them anytime throughout the growing season to use fresh as green onions or "spring" onions. Then, whatever is left at the end of the season can be harvested and cured for storage. We use lots of onions in our cooking, so it's handy to have them available all the time.

You know it's the end of the season when the onion tops fall over. My white onions are still going strong and aren't ready to pull yet.

"Solano White" onions still finishing the bulbing process

But the "Red Burgers" flopped over and were pulled over the weekend. Once they're uprooted from the ground, they can be left to dry on top of the soil. Cover the bulbs with leaves from the onions next to them, to protect them somewhat from the sun.

Drying out in the bed for a few days

If the stems aren't fully dry after a few days of warm weather (i.e. there is no "slipping" when you press on the stem), move the onions to a sheltered location with good air circulation to finish the curing process. We dry onions (and garlic, walnuts, beans, and anything else that needs drying!) on a couple of old screen doors that have been re-purposed for a new life on the homestead, instead of going to the landfill.

Completing the curing process

I'll probably leave the onions on the screen for at least a week before clipping the roots and tops and storing them in mesh onion bags for the summer. I haven't tried this particular variety before so I don't know how long they'll keep, but if stored under optimal conditions (cool, dark and dry), I shouldn't have to buy onions at the market until the fall.

What's your experience growing onions? Do you have a favorite variety for the Davis area?


  1. My mouth is watering thinking about caramelized onions on pizza.

  2. Could we plan on that pizza in about a week???

    My onions in the garden look good. No idea what kind they are and will refer to your information and pictures as to when to harvest.

  3. What I hate about growing onions and garlic is loosing a bed that cannot be used for summer crops. I need to find a space that I can grow them that won't take up a space that could be growing more food in the summer months. Maybe out in the front yard!

    1. Yep, that's definitely a drawback, and the reason we built a few more beds this year. I did have a bed full in the front yard, this year and last. Especially if you're neat about the rows, they onions are pretty (well until they dry out and flop over, but that's a short amount of time.)