OkiePokieMay 13, 2011

My short day onions have started falling over last week and so I have started harvesting a few of them to make room for the seedlings that I am putting in their place. I think my DW will only tolerate me leaving the onions out on the table to dry for so long. Other than a fan which I am using, are there any clever suggestions on how to speed up the curing process indoors?

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Do you have anyplace you can cure them outside in the shade but covered so moisture cannot get on them? I spread mine out on screens laid on top of white folding tables on the shady patio. Sometimes I use the wraparound porch although no one but me seems to appreciate having a porch that smells strongly of onions.

If you don't have screens, put layers of newspaper under the onions to soak up any moisture, but turn the onions over daily so the part that sits on the newspaper/table doesn't stay too moist.

I also have moved them inside earlier than I wanted to at times because of constant rain/high humidity by placing them in Dixondale's onion tube netting bags and using a zip tie or twist tie to close off the tube between each onion and the next onion. If you use the twist ties, you don't have to cut the netting tubes to remove an onion each time you need one and you can reuse them. Since I'm assuming you don't happen to have Dixondale tube netting just sitting on a shelf in your laundry room like I do, I think that any light flexible cloth could be used the same way as long as it allows air flow. Ladies' hoisery (cut the legs out of pantyhose with runs) would work in the same way. Then you could hang the onions in the garage, shed, pantry, etc. to let them continue curing while simultaneously storing them.

For long-term storage, I hang the netting tubes from shelves in my tornado shelter, which doubles as a root cellar. (At least if we're ever trapped in the shelter under tornado debris, we'd be able to live for weeks off all the root cellar crops stored there.)


Here is a link that might be useful: Dixondale's Tube-Type Mesh Netting

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 1:07PM
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Ah. I had seen those before and had considered getting them. I was under the impression that I had to cure them completely before I put them into hosery or netting. Have you had much of an issue with spoilage from curing them in the netting?

My back patio faces west and is completely in the sun and uncovered. My front porch barely qualifies as such and gets crowded when more than one person stands on it. Not nearly enough room for the number of onions that I seem to be getting this year. I have thought about just backing the cars out of the garage and taking it over for a few weeks... not the best option but it beats having to move lots of onions every time we desire to eat dinner =) If it was not threatening rain here every day for the last few days I could just put them on a tarp under the maple in the front yard... thats not much of an option right now... maybe it will dry out for a week or two so I can cure them outdoors when it comes time to harvest the full amount of them. I might have to get some of that tube netting... After this year I am sold on dixondale. I only had 2 of the several hundred try to flower and I am getting softball sized bulbs out of what I am pulling up... I am curious to see what I get out of the intermediate day varieties.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 1:44PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I try to let mine dry completely before I "net" them, but in a wet/humid year that can be hard to do. So, yes, I have netted them and hung them up in the root cellar before they were completely cured and I had no more spoilage than usual. Normally, I have very low spoilage. The amount of spoilage you see depends a lot not only on how well-cured they are, but on how they're stored. My tornado shelter keeps them cool and dry, and it has a wind turbine on it, so they have good air flow as well.

Because we have the shaded patio, a covered wraparound porch, and a sun porch (until last fall it was just a screened porch), I have lots of options for drying/curing onions, potatoes and the like, so I often air cure them longer than most people and get storage for up to 6 or 8 months, which is not typical with sweet onions. In general, as Dixondale says, two months is about the maximum storage time for well-cured onions.

I love Dixondale plants, but the weather does have to cooperate somewhat as well, or they can bolt just like any other transplants. Having said that, though, I am so happy with Dixondale's performance year in and year out that they are all I buy any more.

I am going to have a really huge crop this year as well with many more onions than we ever could eat. I will chop and slice a bunch and freeze them, and I'll use some when canning salsa or making pickled products, but I still think we'll have way, way too many. I probably will take the excess to the local food bank or give them to non-gardening friends.

I get a huge onion crop like this only once every three years or so, and was due for one this year. I'm glad we're having a good onion year.

When hail hit my onions about a month ago, there was some fairly severe breakage to a lot of the leaves but the plants mostly bounced back very well.

I usually get large onions from the intermediate types and often they are larger than the short-days as long as I am keeping them well-watered up until the point they begin bulbing up.

I have almost unlimited freezer space, so I can keep and use chopped or sliced frozen onions for 2 or 3 years with no discernable loss of quality as long as I am storing them in a very cold deep freezer, and not just the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.

In an erratic spring climate like ours, bolting just happens some years and it is the fault of the weather and we can't do much to prevent it, so in a good year, I like to put up and store a lot of frozen onions to use in the 'bad' years when bolting gets too many of them.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 2:03PM
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Hmm freezing them might actually be the perfect answer to my dillema... Do they need to be cured if I am going to freeze them? I too have tons of freezer space and that might be a good option for the ones that I would be using for cooking as opposed to the ones I would eat raw. I have never frozen onions although I have seen them frozen at the store. Would I need to blanche them or could I just chop them, put them on a cookie sheet, freeze them, and then bag them?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 2:59PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

No, you don't have to cure them before freezing them, but I usually do cure them first. That's because I don't know in advance how many onions will be "extra" until I've harvested all of them, and you harvest over a period of time as different varieties mature.

I've never blanched onions. I just chop or slice them, put them into whichever containers I'm using (sometimes plastic freezer boxes with lids and sometimes zip-lock freezer bags) and freeze them. Of course, they're only good for cooking because once thawed their texture is not the same as fresh. Since you're going to use them for cooking, you can make it easy for yourself by pre-measuring them in the quantities you normally use in cooking: 1/2 cup, 1 cup, 2 cups, etc. Often I put pre-measured amounts in smaller ziplock bags labeled with the portion amount, and put a lot of the smaller ziplock bags into a larger 1 or 2 gallon ziplock bag. This keeps them all together in the deep freeze.

There's no need to freeze them on a cookie sheet since they'll be thawed out before being added to whatever recipe they're being used in. It doesn't matter if they're frozen together in one big blob because they'll thaw and then be stirred into whatever you're cooking.

One tip: If onions make you cry, processing tons of them at one time can be a really miserable experience. If you wear a pair of safety goggles like you'd wear while operating machinery (and I do mean safety goggles that seal around your face and not safety glasses that allow air flow) while cutting or slicing the onions, that will cut down on the crying. I keep my onion goggles in the laundry room (with my net bags!) so DH doesn't use them in the garage and get them dusty or dirty. I always wash and peel all the onions for processing at one time, then use the food processor to either slice them (for fajitas!) or chop them (for cooking). You can process a lot of onions in a fairly short period with the assistance of a food processor.

Finally, I put all the onion peelings on the ground as mulch around whichever plant the wild critters are attempting to eat. Onion peelings (as well as any waste from garlic, leeks or chives) repel plant-eating critters in my garden. Or, you can put the peelings on your compost pile if you don't have any critters you need to repel.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 4:19PM
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