Curing and storing onions for 10 months or more isn’t as hard as you might think! Choose the right variety and follow these steps and you can have your garden-grown onions for 10 months or more!
Onions are an indispensable garden crop for our kitchen. Curing and storing onions correctly will assure you have this garden goody available all year long! Yep, that’s right! If you grow the right onion and then cure and store it correctly you can get your onions to last up to 10 months.
Here’s proof we are curing and storing onions for 10 months or more. These are our last two Copra onions. They are looking a little ragged but are still usable. The two onions at the top are freshly harvested.
This picture was taken on August 15th, the same day we harvested our first onions for the year! But even in years where they don’t last till the next harvest, they can still last well into the summer when you will have green onions to harvest. Because of this, it has been years since we’ve bought an onion!!
So how can you begin curing and storing onions to last up to 12 months? Following my 4 easy steps will help you get your homegrown onions to last a whole lot longer.
1. Choosing the right onion
There are two types of onions, mild and pungent.
Mild onions are usually larger and sweeter. They are often used raw and are perfect on salads, burgers, and even onion rings. But mild onions are not good “storers” and usually only last a couple of months in storage. Examples of mild onions include Spanish, Bermuda, and Vidalid.
Pungent onions are always smaller and are usually used for cooking. The same strong-smelling compound that makes your eyes water when you cut them is responsible for pungent onion’s long storage capacity. Pungent onion varieties include Copra, Candy, Patterson, Superstar, and Red Tropea.
So if you want to have long storing onions grow pungent varieties. My suggestion is Copra! We love Copra onions and they are the longest storing onion I know of! Copras are advertised to last 10 months or more and they live up to the advertising! If stored correctly we have had them last a year.
Recently I have found it is becoming harder to find Copra onions. Fewer growers are producing them so you may have to grow them yourself from seed. I have learned that the variety Patterson is a good replacement for Copra and will last just as long in storage.
We love to plant our onions using seedlings, and our favorite place to buy those seedlings is Dixondale Farms, they are based in Texas but sell all over the US and Canada. We have always been please with the seedlings we get from Dixondale!
2. Harvest at the right time
The next step in curing and storing onions is harvesting. As mid-summer approaches your onions will start to “bulb” up. When the tops start to flop over that indicates the onions have finished growing and are moving into their final maturing stage. Once the tops start to yellow and wither you should stop watering the plants for a week. For a little more detailed discussion of how to harvest onions, you can check out this article I wrote on the topic.
3. Cure your onions for at least 3 weeks
Now here’s the key. Let your onions sit and dry for at least 3 weeks and up to 4 weeks! Patience and a nice airy spot are the keys! You know your onions are cured when the necks (where the tops attach to the bulb) are dry and tight and the outer layers of skin are dry, papery, and rustling and the tops have withered and dried completely.
On a dry sunny day dig up the bulbs (be sure to dig them out, do not pull them out by the tops as this can damage the bulbs). If there is no chance of rain or frost you can leave your onions lying in the garden to dry for a day or two. Otherwise, bring the bulbs into a protected area like a covered porch or garage. I place all my onions on a screen I built just for this purpose in my garage. You then simply let your onions sit and dry for 3 or 4 weeks.
Once your onions are cured trim off the roots with a pair of scissors and brush off any dirt. You can remove the top one or two layers of dried skin to give you a nice clean-looking onion. If you are planning on braiding your onions or tying them to a string then leave the tops on. If not then you should cut the tops off to about 1 inch. This is a good chance to see if the tops have really dried. If there is still moisture in the tops then you should not store that onion, put it in the fridge and use it up soon.
Now go through all your onions and remove any that have bruises damage or rot. Again use these up quickly. I also like to sort my onions by size. Over the years I have found that smaller onions store the longest. So I put the smaller onions in one bag and the larger in another and use the larger ones first!
4. Store in a cold, dry, dark place
We like to store our onions in a mesh bag and most of the year they hang on a nail in our garage. Keeping them out of direct light or even better in the dark also helps them last longer.
Onions should be stored in temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 10 Celsius). The optimal storage is 35 to 40. But be sure to protect them from freezing, if they freeze and then thaw they will start to rot.
If you only have a few onions a fridge isn’t a bad option. But if you have 50 or more then you need to find a cool spot. In the winter our garage is perfect, but it is too hot in the fall and spring. We end up putting them in a cool dark room in the basement for the fall. Then we put them in the garage all winter. When there are any left in the spring we put them in the fridge till they are gone.
If your onions start growing roots, then where you are storing them is too humid. If the onions start to sprout then it is too warm. In either case, you need to use up the onions quickly or you could chop them up and put them in the freezer. Just be sure to double bag them so the smell and flavor of the onions doesn’t spread to the other foods in your freezer!
By following these simple steps you can easily get pungent varieties of onions to last 10 or more months filling your cooking with tons of homegrown flavor all year long!!! If you would like to learn more about growing onions you can check out my complete growing guide for onions.
I’ve never been able to get my onions to store for that long. Nor do I have a great place to store them. They end up in my basement and right now it is not cool down there. It won’t cool off until it does outside. But they store for 5 or 6 months which is about all I grow so it works.
Yes there have been years where we only get 5 or 6 months as well. But now that we are growing so many more we really pay close attention to our storage temperature. We also grow Candy and Copra. Candy are a medium length storage time (around 4 to 6 months). Copra’s are a much longer store, as long as 12 months so we eat up the Candy first and them move on to the Copra. We can usually get the Copra to last at least 10 months. This year 12!! We just ate the last 2014 onion last night in our dinner.
Storing onions in the garage – I never thought of that. We’re reorganizing because we just built a new garage – I could find a good place for onions.
I love the idea that you have a special screen for your onion drying in your garage. I think I’m going to make one like that, too. Do you use it to cure potatoes, too? Thank you for mentioning what will happen to the onions if it’s too warm or humid. I haven’t tried to store onions yet, but I’ll need to this year and my biggest challenge is trying to find the right spot. This will help me figure out if I’ve picked the right spot. I’m having the same issue with potatoes, too. Do you have any quick tips for storing potatoes?
Margaret, Potatoes are a different beast all together! They need similar conditions but they are less tolerant of heat. My biggest struggle with potatoes has been finding a cool spot for them in the fall. Our garage is okay in the winter but it is too warm in the fall. So this year we are trying a mini root cellar in one of our window wells. I will let you know if it works!!
Debra A Ricci
Hi. I live in zone 5 no basement. Where can I sore my onions? In the garage thru winter? Even if I open the garage door daily? My garage freezes hoe do I protect them? I’m really struggling with food.
If it freezes in your garage then that would not be a good choice. You could always build a mini root cellar, there are plans out on the internet for simple ones.
Wow great post and great information all ready for us coming into Spring. I am definitely going to try and grow onions this year and now I know how to handle them after harvest. Thank you so much for sharing this with us at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings
Congrats! You are being featured this week at the (mis)Adventures Mondays Blog Hop. Thank you for being a part of it!
Your onions are so big and pretty! I’ve never been able to grow mine so big. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!
Hello there, I have a question about growing onions. It seems my onions always have what I would describe as a “soft” texture. Can you tell me why this might be?
I’m sorry, that one is not an issue I have faced before. I’m afraid trying to diagnose that one from a distance would just be guessing on my part. Do you know the location of your local extension service office? You may be able to take some into them and have them take a look and diagnose your problem.
Thanks so much Rick for this advise. Last year I got a ton of onions from my CSA and lost too many because I didn’t store them right. too warm and not cured I’m guessing.