Drying and Storing Your Onions
Dear Fellow Gardener,
Come harvest time, you're likely to end up with more onions than you can eat all at once. That means you'll either need to sell them, give them away, or store them for later consumption. So in this issue, we'll offer a few tips for keeping your onions safe and edible for as long as possible.
First of all, your onions should be well-dried and cured before you store them. Depending on a number of factors, including their variety and the conditions during their growth, onions will go into a rest period for 4-6 weeks after harvest. Drying and curing them during this period deepens their dormancy, so that they're less susceptible to both disease organisms and mechanical damage. This, in turn, allows them to be stored and/or transported safely.
Take a Close Look
An onion isn't properly dried unless the tops, roots, and several layers of skin are visibly dry. The outer skin should be crackly and translucent. Squeeze the neck between your thumb and forefinger; if it isn't dry almost all the way to the onion's surface, and if it slides back and forth, then the onion isn't completely dried.
Poorly-dried onions will rot quickly once they're packed, and even in storage may contract the fungal disease called neck rot (usually caused by botrytis, a.k.a. gray mold, and similar pathogens). If an onion begins to spoil, there's nothing you can do but remove it and hope that the infection doesn't spread. The onion itself should be discarded or eaten, if any portion is still edible. Once an onion is infected, there's nothing that can be done to stop the decay.
Beware of Sunscald
If possible, leave the onions to dry in the field for one week before transferring them to storage. Be very careful about exposing them to direct sunlight or to particularly high temperatures during the field-drying process; this can cause blemishes called sunscald, which can either ruin the onion or cause it to go bad in storage. Use the tops of onions in adjoining rows to protect the bulbs from excess sunlight during the drying process, or put the onions under a shed or other protective open structure. Do not put them in an enclosed structure during the initial drying stage.
Once they've cured sufficiently, be sure to store your onions in a cool, dry place that offers good air circulation, away from bright light (especially direct sunlight). It's best to use a fan or two to ensure that the onions stay dry, so that decay and disease due to excess moisture won't occur. The ideal humidity range for stored onions is 65-75%; the temperature range should be 40-60º F.
Keep Them Cool and Dry
Never store onions in plastic bags, since lack of air circulation will reduce their shelf life; so will storing them with potatoes, because potatoes emit moisture that will cause or accelerate spoilage of the onions. Mesh bags or nets are best for storage. Place onions at least one foot away from walls to provide air movement.
Follow these simple directions, and you'll be enjoying your onions well past the harvest. When proper care is taken, sweet onions will store for a maximum of three months, and storage types will store throughout the winter.
Bruce "Onionman" Frasier
Product of the Month
The best way to store onions is in mesh netting like the kind pictured here. Simply drop in an onion, tie a knot, drop in another, and continue the process until the netting is full. Hang it up in a well-ventilated area, and you're sitting pretty. Whenever you want an onion, simply cut below the next knot.
From Our Friends
Joe Wipf buys our Big Daddy onions and raises them in Carter, Montana. He tells us he's very satisfied with our onions, and wanted to share his success picture with everyone!
We love hearing from you! Send us
favorite "onion photo" and we'll try to
include it in a
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submit your photos.
Around the Farm
A Visit to Vidalia
This past May, Jeanie and Bruce enjoyed a trip to Vidalia, Georgia, one of the largest onion growing regions in the United States. Onion prices were the highest they had been in several years, so all the farmers they visited were in great moods. We normally ship around 150 million plants to the region; that accounts for about 10% of the total acreage for the area. The rest are grown by the farmers themselves in their own seedbeds.
The highest prices were for red onions; and even though there's no such thing as the red Vidalia onion, Stanley Farms grew our Red Candy Apple variety and was extremely satisfied with the sweetness and size. Of course, getting over $1.00 per pound for red onions didn't hurt anything. The high prices were due to a shortage of onions, which started in February with the storage crop grown in the Northwest, and spread to the Mexican crop, the Rio Grande Valley, and the Vidalia region. Yields were down considerably, and there were some fields with as much as 50% seedstems -- but the rules of supply
versus demand made for a profitable year for most onion growers.
Our Other Crop
The Incomparable Carrizo Cantaloupe
Onion season accounts for only a portion of our growing year down here in Carrizo Springs, Texas. We don't let our land lie idle the rest of the year -- from June until the end of summer, we're busy growing the tastiest Texas cantaloupes you'll ever find.
Above is an image of our box logo, so you'll know what to look for. You can find Carrizo Cantaloupes at retail markets such as Kroger, Wal-Mart, United Supermarkets, Whole Foods, the military commissaries, Fareway, and Hy Vee. We're the largest grower of cantaloupes in the state of Texas, so we appreciate any of our customers looking for our
Cooking With Onions
Sweet Onion Dip
- 1/2 cup of chopped Vidalia onions
- 1/4 teaspoon of parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon of chives
- 1/8 teaspoon of thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon of mustard
- 1 cup of sour cream
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl, and enjoy with crackers, chips, or raw veggies!
Onions can enhance so many dishes, from
salads to complex entrees; and they can also be
consumed raw, fried, sautéed or baked. We
periodically receive sumptuous recipe
from our employees and from you, our customers.
We want to share one with you each month, so
you can take full advantage of the fruits of
your labor! If
you have one you would like us to print,
please email it
to us at
Q&A: Cracking Onion Skins
Q. Why are the skins cracking on some of my onions?
A. Onions need to be cooled properly after they're harvested and dried. This should be a gradual process, because the skins will crack like yours have if they're cooled too quickly. You can monitor the air temperature inside your storage area with a thermometer or hygrometer. Be sure to keep the storage area closed on warm days, because allowing warm air in can result in condensation on the onions. This can lead to rot and fungal infections.
Fun Onion Facts
Onions have occasionally caused people to wax poetic. One of our earliest known examples comes down to us from Juvenal, a Roman satirist who lived in the first century:
How Egypt, mad with superstition grown,
Makes gods of monsters but too well is known.
'Tis moral sin an Onion to devour,
Each clove of garlic hath a sacred power,
Religious nation sure, and best abodes,
When every garden is o'errun with gods!
As you might recall, the onion was sacred to the ancient Egyptians. When archaeologists discovered the 3,000-year-old mummy of Pharaoh Rameses IV, they found mummified onions in his eye sockets!
Send Us Your Product Reviews!
In addition to sending us recipes and photos
onions, we encourage you to give us
feedback on our products. You'll find
a "write your own review" link on every
product page. Don't be shy -- we need
About Dixondale Farms
As the largest and oldest onion plant farm in the U.S., Dixondale Farms offers a wide selection of top-quality, disease-free, ready-to-plant onion plants. To see our complete product line, request a catalog, or for growing tips and cultural information, visit our Web site by clicking here.
Whether you're planting one bunch or thousands of acres, we're committed to your success. If you have
either questions or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you. You can reach us from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Central Daylight Time at 877-367-1015, or e-mail us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.