Onion Storage

mwilk42(7)August 11, 2012

My place that I usually hang onions must be too hot this year. I am wondering if I can put them in a frig? I have a beer frig in the shop that has nothing in the crisper drawers. If this is not a good solution I guess I could freeze them. I would like to have them to eat "not Frozen" if possible. Any thoughts on this? I googled and got various thoughts on this.



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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I think the temperature would be fine as long as it is above 32 degrees. However, the humidity likely would be too high for good long-term storage, and there would not be good air-flow. In general terms, good airflow and low humidity both are needed for the best storage conditions that will allow the onions to store for many months.

Of the three conditions needed for good long-term storage, I can meet the requirement for good air flow and low humidity merely by storing them in the garage, shed or tornado shelter, but in a summer like this, all three of those places get much too hot. Thus, I move them inside and store them inside my pantry, which has a louvered door, thus allowing for good air flow. It wouldn't be my favorite place--the tornado shelter is my favorite place. But, the tornado shelter is too hot. Sometimes, after it cools down in late summer or early autumn I move them back from the pantry to the tornado shelter in September when temperatures have moderated.

Much depends on how long your onions routinely last for you while in storage and whether you're talking about storing for a few weeks versus a few months. Some varieties store better than others.

While many of the supersweet onions that we grow here in the south only last 2-4 months in typical storage conditions, I dry and cure mine very carefully before I store them and they often store for 6 months or more in all but the most humid years. If you grow the hotter, more pungent onion varieties that are more typically grown in an intermediate to long-day type climate, those will store longer than the sweet ones even in the same conditions.

I probably would not choose to store onions long-term in a refrigerator if I had a better option like moving them indoors to a cool, dry area with good airflow. I think the poor air flow and higher humidity would make them start sprouting green growth, or if not well-cured, they might start rotting. Could you keep yours inside the house somewhere for another 2 or 3 weeks just until the temperatures drop a bit more and then move them back to your usual location once it is cooler?


    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 2:05PM
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Thanks Dawn. Maybe we are on the way to some "cooler" weather. cooler being a relative term. Will try to ge tthem inside for a bit.
I might end up freezing some of them. Don't want to lose them.
Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 4:21PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

You're welcome!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 4:53PM
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jdlaugh(Zone 6)

I know it's nothing new, but we played with braiding onions this year and have been hanging them in a spare closet suspended from the clothes rack so they get good air circulation. We cured them several days on the back patio before we braided them. They've kept well for 3 months now and, sadly, we only have a few more braided bunches left...

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 6:04PM
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I have a rack on the front of my shop/shed, which is just a pole barn. This area is like a porch, last year they did well. I moved them inside before freezing weather. This year the rack was full of other items and I stored the onions in the back part of the shed, that gets less ventilation and more heat they are not doing as well. DW said some of the red onions were roting from the inside out. Next year I will have to go back to the porch area.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 8:06PM
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The onions in a large cardboard tray I had in my garage are struggling. I let them cure for about 4-5 days outside in the shade, then moved them inside. They seemed ok, with a few that had hail damage rotting right away so I threw those out. But now, occasionally I'll reach for one and find it crumble away to dust in my hand - guess they are rotting from inside out. Didn't think to put in the pantry - I will do that tomorrow. Also, I did braid some garlic and throw it onto the same tray, and several of the heads turned back into seeds or something. Will try to plant those bulbs in a few weeks and see what happens.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 9:51PM
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Dawn, Did you store your onions in the mesh 'socks' this year. I used mine (thanks) and they were a little slow to do, but I liked it after I got it done. I haven't figured out a permanent place to keep them so right now they are stretched over a ladder in the shelter. I think I am going to mount some hooks in the top of my pantry. I stored the Ringmaster in the socks because I think they are likely to last longer.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 11:55PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

With regards to onion storage, proper curing will usually help prevent rot and allow the onions to store for a very long time. But, hand in hand with that, you have to be lucky and not get rainfall in the final week or two before you harvest your onions. You also need to be smart enough to look at the calendar and realize you should stop watering them as they get close to maturity. Onions that have had a great deal of moisture, whether from rainfall or irrigation, in the last couple of weeks before they are harvested often retain too much moisture and don't cure as well as those that are drier in their final weeks of growth. We cannot control rainfall but we can control our irrigation habits.

Larry, I have things like that happen to me in various storage locations in various years too and it is one of the most vexing things about dry storage. An area that works great in an average year may not work as well in a very hot or very wet year. I always keep an eye on things throughout their storage period, and move them around as needed. I think the biggest factor with mine, no matter the temperatures, is always air flow. If I can manage air flow, it seems like the temperatures and humidity don't cause as much trouble.

One year when it was really wet and the humidity was too high all summer long, I kept the onions in black plastic mesh plant trays on a baker's rack on a shady porch that never gets direct sunlight, and for comparison's sake, kept others on plastic shelves in the tornado shelter,

The porch onions had great air flow and I didn't move them inside the tornado shelter until the first frost was approaching in November. I know I had stored onions that still were decent quality and were useable in at least February The tornado shelter onions were sprouting green sprouts by October, and I think that was because of less air flow.

Sometimes it is a guessing game to figure out where to put them for storage in some conditions.

Mia, I think the heat this year may have caused dry rot. That's usually what you have when they crumble to dust in your hand. It has been hard to store onions out in garages and sheds this year because of the heat.

Some years I just cannot get the onions to cure as well as i like. I've cured them for a month some years in plastic mesh nursery flats on tables on the covered patio, and still didn't get them as dry as I wanted them before I put them into storage. Usually that is in the wet years.

Also, we all need to remember that for best storage, we have to patiently wait for the onion tops to fall over on their own and for the necks of the onions to be soft before we harvest them. If you harvest them green and the necks are not drying down naturally, they'll never cure as well as onions harvested at a drier, less-green stage. Some years a severe thunderstorm with high wind will bend and even break the onion necks before the onions are mature and those onions do not keep well in storage. If that happens in my garden, I either use them up quickly (not hard to do at all if it is salsa-canning season) or chop and freeze those for winter cooking because they will not store well even after they are cured--they are too green internally to cure like a fully mature onion will.

Carol, Yes, I always store at least some of them in the mesh bags. It is a little more time-consuming, but once they are done, I am confident each and every one of them will have good air flow. Back before I found the mesh tubes, which I guess was 5 or 6 years ago, I stored them the same way, but in the leg portions cut from panty hose. Of course, you don't get as many onions in one leg as you do in a mesh tube, but it worked equally well.

Our pantry is a walk-in pantry that goes back up under the staircase and it has shelves along one wall. Them there is open floor space for the 'aisle' where we walk and then there is the north pantry wall. I have nails on the north wall and on some of the undersides of the stairs so I can just hang mesh tubes of onion (or garlic, or whatever) on that wall.

Every now and then I rotate the mesh tubes so that the side of the onions facing the wall are now facing the open area. Sometimes I have hung them from the top of a baker's rack in the laundry room when I have too many to put in the pantry (in one of those great onion years when I fill up the freezer compartment in the garage fridge with them) and some years I hang them in the tornado shelter too. However, I usually keep potatoes in the tornado shelter, so do not necessarily put onions in there with the potatoes. I try to keep my onions and potatoes separate in storage because they have different humidity needs for long-term storage and I try to put them wherever I can get them as close as possible to the humidity levels they need. Normally, the humidity in my tornado shelter is closer to what potatoes need than what onions need.

For those of you who are not familiar with mesh onion storage tubes, I'll link the supplier. They are long and hold a single layer of onions. You tie the mesh in between each onion and that tied space (you can use anything--string, Velcro strips, zip ties, bread bag twist ties, etc.) separates each onion from the next, providing dry air space between them.

Some of our local stores often have mesh storage bags (like onion sacks from the store) and burlap bags in early spring when they have onions and seed potatoes, and the mesh bags would work reasonably well for onion storage, but the onions would touch each other and anywhere they touch, there is the potential for rot. I think the mesh bags are fine for fairly short term storage, but for long-term storage I prefer the mesh tubes.


Here is a link that might be useful: Mesh Onion Storage Tubes

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 11:09AM
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