Thursday, May 19, 2011

Curing Onions

I wrote about the health benefits of onions yesterday, and will be discussing how to harvest and store your lovely globes of nutrition today.  I must preface this by declaring myself a 'non expert' when it comes to storing vegetables long term. I have a small garden and a large appetite: i tend to cook and eat our harvests pretty quickly. The frozen and canned goods last us through to the next season, but root cellaring is not something we practice and most of our onions and garlic get consumed rapidly. One day (soon, i hope) however, I will have a big garden with vast beds of onions and garlic which will both need to be cured and properly stored if they'll keep feeding us past their season. Hopefully i'll have a nice shed (or two or three) to do the curing in and maybe even a crawlspace or cold storage area for long term storage. For now, this is how i do it.

I planted this year's onions several times starting in September with the last planting in January. I plant 2 inches apart and harvest as 'green onions' to small bulbs throughout the season making way for the onions left in the ground to swell to their full capacity, at about 4 to 6 inches spacing. I've had great results this year and have harvest some big daddies that i'm very proud of. You can tell that the onions are mature and ready to harvest as storable bulbs when the greens fall over and begin to whither. Until this point, you can be harvesting and eating the greens as well, my favorite part! When the onions are ready you can pull them up or leave them in the ground. This drought made all mine pop up out of the soil, and impending rain storms cause me to want them out of the soon to be soggy garden, so i'll eventually harvest most of mine. I'm being choosy right now and leaving some in the ground to get a little bigger, harvesting as needed for dinner, and pulling some for storage. In other climates you can leave your onions in the ground for storage for a decent amount of time... but eventually that ground needs to make way for the next crop, so best learn to store those suckers efficiently.

Once the greens have dropped and you've decided to pull the onions, do so carefully. Try not to rip the shrivelling greens from the top of the bulb. Lay out the onions in a shady, well vented, dry place like a shed, barn, or garage. I've been using my carport but it's so darned humid that the greens were getting moldy. I've since moved them to my soap curing racks. Doesn't smell QUITE the same as fresh soap...
Once the onions have dried up sufficiently it's time to store them. As i said: i'm no expert. I would ASSUME that you can tell the onions are dried enough by cutting the greens and assessing the amount of juice that wells, the same as you would garlic. That being said, stored onions are still rather juicy, so you may be able to store with some juice still apparent when cutting the greens.  You can store your onions in a burlap sac, in cold storage or use an old onion sack from the store. Plenty of onions have been lost to mold in those sacks, so i'll be employing the 'panty hose' method. Take each onion and drop it into panty hose, dividing with a knot. As you need an onion, simply cut one off and the rest stay secured in the panty hose. The mesh of the hosiery gives the onions plenty of ventilation and also keeps them from laying against each other and rotting.

I'll post pictures once i get my onions stored. I'd love to hear how you process your onion harvests.

Do you have large yields of onions that get stored? What method do you use and where do you cure the onions?

This post is part of the Simple Lives Thursday blog hop and Homestead Revival Barn Hop. Please check them out! Tons of homesteading, frugal living, real food cooking tips from great bloggers abound!

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