harvesting onions

wiringman(ZONE 4)September 25, 2009

do you harvest the onions before the frost?

we have a frost coming Monday night and i do not want to lose my onions.

i would like to get more growth on some of them.

can i cover them and let them grow some more?


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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

I harvest when the tops die back on their own.
If you still have nice, green tops, cover and see how you do!

If the tops are turning brown, it's time to harvest anyway, frost or no frost, they aren't growing any more.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 12:14AM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

Deanna, how do you dry out your onions? I've been growing onions for two or three years and I feel I end up tossing too many over the winter. I really don't think I have them dried properly.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 11:01AM
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I do lots of onions and other veggies in the onion family like shallots, leeks and garlic. Usually I do my onion from seed, because too many of the onion sets one buys on the retail market don't bulb up properly and it has to do with when the sets are harvested from the fields for marketing.

There are onions for all localities and the most important thing is to buy onions meant to be grown where you are growing (long day vs. short day).

As dgkritch says, if the tops are brown, you dig them up regardless of the calendar, as they are done growing. (Actually, they'll start again from the bulb in the ground but that growing cycle is over).

Yes, I have covered onions for frost, but if the freeze is hard or long, you may as well harvest beforehand.

As for the keeping qualities there are onions meant for keeping and those meant for immediate use who do not keep well, regardless of how you do it.

The big, juicy sweet onions don't usually keep well. If you want winter keepers, look for varieties listed as storing well. I grow both types, one to harvest and eat from the garden, and one for keeping over winter.

When you harvest them, I leave the stem on and dry them in a well ventilated area out of direct sunlight, then braid them. This exposes the bulbs to air over all their surfaces. What you are looking for, is that the foliage and the point on the bulb where it was/is attached to the foliage is dry....if it's moist and kept that way, it'll start to rot.

If you don't want to braid them, wait until after they're cured and clip the dried stem off not too close to the bulb. I don't wash mine, ever. I wipe/knock off the garden soil. The skins protect them from the dust on them.

I save old net bags for keeping veggies like this and if I have gobs of them, hang the bags from nails in a cellar where they neither get too hot or too cold.

Cull them out over the winter months. If you have one starting to rot, they're like apples, it'll foul the onions next to them. As soon as you spot one with a soft area, use it up.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 12:46PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Depends on what kinds, when planted, short day, intermediate day or long day, also if they are being fertilized or not.

I had some that were missed last year and over wintered and formed flower stalks ths spring. I thought I could leave them in, but they shrunk and were not very useful once flowering. Right now, I plan to put in my seasons worth of walking onions which are dug up next summer. Same with garlic. The mixed onions I planted this spring were all harvested once the greens died out. Some were sweet purple and also white, as well as Copra type which are the common yellow ones. The rest of my purples all rotted, and were tossed the other day. White was also almost going bad with a stem rot in the middle. I add a good fertilizer from Dixondale, and also apply corn gluten to the area to reduce weeds from sprouting. The gluen is put down in very early spring or just after the onion sets are planted. Nearby, I also have wild onions that are only pea size. They are used as chives and only grow greens from late September through June. In summer they send up stalks of tiny bulb clusters. I can harvest the greens in winter too.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 4:49PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

I can't braid them worth a darn so I take a clump of 6-8 tie the tops with a twine and hang that bunch from a large rope going across the coldest part of the basement
when needed just cut the onion from its top with a sissors and enjoy
I also ran a fan down there until I was sure they were dry enough

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 5:04PM
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An old nylon stocking is great for storing onions or garlic, with the tops clipped off. Put one in the toe--tie an overhand knot, add another one tie a knot and so on. then tie a piece of twine under the last knot and hang. When you want an onion just snip below the last knot and you have your onion with the others knotted in

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 6:02PM
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wiringman(ZONE 4)

lots of good advice, thanks.

we have walla, red burgundy and a yellow onion.

what ti do with the walla walla which is not a good keeper is to peal and slice and dry them in a dryer.

the others we hang in the cool part of the basement or the root cellar.

after the walla walla onions are dry i put them in my vita mix and make onion powder for cooking. it is far better then the onion powder you buy in the store.

in the past someone else always harvested the onions and i did not pay attention. when i asked they were not sure as to what to do.

i am going to cover them because they still have strong green tops and only part of them have nice bulbs. they all have bulbs but some are only about two inches while other are close to 4 inches.

thanks again. it is nice to have all this garden wisdom at my finger tips.

today i canned 26 pints of Jalapeno Escabeche and picked 800 pounds of banana squash.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 10:06PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

I chopped and froze most of my Walla Wallas. They are great for cooking all winter.
The dried ones will get 'powdered' like you said.

My goodness, Dean, how many squash plants do you have to harvest 800 pounds in one day? I think my back hurts!! LOL

Will you post your recipe for Jalapeno Escabeche?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 10:52AM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

I do have the correct varieties and storage varieties. Perhaps mine aren't getting enough air circulation, I'll try some different hanging techniques to see if I can improve the drying, thanks for the hints.

Deanna, I thought it must be a typo about the 800 pounds, but he wrote that in two posts! OH my gosh! What are you going to do with all af those squash?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 11:30AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I place my garlic and onions on a big 2x4 foot wire screen with a fan blowing from underneath. Its inside my greenhouse and works great for my garlic thats already been cured. All my walking onions are on the screen now. I tried Walla Walla ones and because they are quite sweet, they spoil faster than long keepers like Copra.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 1:44PM
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I've mentioned this before but I also freeze some of mine. I chop and put them in the small snack bags then put those in a large freezer bag. They don't smell and the size is very handy for throwing in soups and other cooked dishes. I use the cured onions first then have those for winter. Lori

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 11:42PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

What does a person do with 800 lb. of anything ? Wow !!
I would not even have a place to store that. Please, inquiring minds want to know... what are you doing with all of that ?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 1:28AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

A freezer, dehydrate?? Sell some to local stores?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 12:43PM
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wiringman(ZONE 4)

well let's see. i had 65 banana squash plants. i did not count the ones i gave away as they ripened. there were 40 squash and if you average 20 pounds a squash and i had one that was 60 pounds. it is not hard to get 800 pounds.

squash keep well at 50 degrees so into the unheated basement they go.

i give the surplus away.

we have 6 families that garden together.

i cut a 10-15 pounder into 1/4 and use one 1/4 and frig the others. i try to use it up with in a week.

i still have the hubbard, spaghetti and butternut to harvest.

yes Virgina banana squash do get that big.

it is good i grew that many because all the other gardens did not do as well with there banana's. they did better with the other winter squash and that is good because i have very few butternut.

i got the recipe for Jalapeno Escabeche from this wed site but here it is again.

Jalapeno Escabeche
(Source: adapted from Michael Gokey via Foodie Mama)
Makes 3 to 5 pint jars , depending on whether you follow the original recipe (3) or my adaptation (5)
1 lb. jalape or serrano chile peppers, sliced into rounds of desired thickness (may also be left whole--then you may wish to blister their skins in a hot pan with a trace of oil first)
1 medium white or yellow onion, 1/4 inch thickly sliced (I used TWO yellow onions sliced somewhat thinly)
2 medium carrots, peeled and 1/4 inch thickly sliced (I used a whole pound of carrots, peeled and not as thickly sliced)
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled (I used 2 cracked cloves per pint jar)
3 cups apple cider vinegar (could also use white, but I like the subtle sweetness of cider vinegar here)
3 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 tablespoon sugar (I used about 2 teaspoons)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4-6 sprigs of fresh marjoram or 1/4 teaspoon dried
4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
20-30 mixed black and red peppercorns (I just used black)
*I added 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin, too (would have preferred seeds if I had them)
Prepare the pickling brine (you may need to increase the brine by 25% if you follow my version). Add the vinegar, water, salt, dry herbs, and sugar to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.
Wash your vegetables well with no soap. Now peel and slice to prepare. Add at least one clove of garlic, 3-4 peppercorns, to each of the sterilized jars. If you are using fresh herbs then, pack one sprig each in each of the jars.
Pack the chile vegetable mixture into sterilized jars leaving 1/2" head space. To help reduce bubbles, slowly fill the packed jars slowly with the pickling brine, plucking out the bay leaves. Make sure you use a plastic bubble remover and slide it around the inside of the jar wall.
Seal and process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Store your pickled en escabeche jalapenos for four weeks in a cool, dark place before serving. Once opened, they can keep well for one to two months in the refrigerator.
happy eating


    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 6:57PM
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