Harvesting onions: When is the right time?

onions after harvesting
onions after harvesting

To make onions last long in winter storage, don’t harvest them too early. Don’t make these mistakes when harvesting edible onions.

Growing onions (Allium cepa) requires a little patience, because from sowing to harvesting takes at least four months. But how do you find the right time to harvest? And how do the onions keep for a long time after harvesting? Here is how to get onions out of the ground and dry them properly. This way, the aromatic vegetable can be stored well and enjoyed later. With the right method, onions can last up to half a year.

When are onions ready for harvest?

When you can harvest onions depends on how and when they were planted. Onions planted in the fall are ready for harvest as early as June, while onions planted in the spring are ready for harvest between July and September. Onions grown from bulbs ripen in the garden a few weeks earlier than those grown from seed. A mature onion can be recognized by the condition of its foliage. The more withered and unsightly the onion foliage, the closer the onion is to harvest time. This is due to the fact that towards the fall, the onion absorbs the nutrients into the fruit. If the foliage of the plants is allowed to wilt sufficiently before harvesting, the onion becomes aromatic and tasty.

How to harvest onions?

It is still often recommended to trample the green foliage of the onions before harvesting to promote ripening. However, this is not particularly good for the plants. The bending of the foliage causes a kind of emergency ripening of the plants: As a result, they are less amenable to storage and often begin to rot from the inside or sprout prematurely. It is better to loosen the soil around the bulbs with a digging fork shortly before harvesting so that the roots lose contact with the soil. This encourages the nutrients to be drawn in from the foliage.

After that, be sure to wait until the tubular leaves fold over on their own and have yellowed to the point that almost no green is visible. Match a period of nice weather with a few days of dry weather. Then lift the bulbs out of the ground with a digging fork, spread them out on the bed and let them dry out there for about two weeks. In rainy summers, however, it is better to lay out the freshly harvested onions on wooden grates or in shallow boxes on a covered balcony or in an airy shed. Otherwise, the wetness promotes the formation of mold and the onions spoil.

In the fall, it is a good idea not to harvest all the plants in the garden when harvesting onions, but to leave some in the ground. They will bloom the next year and are willingly visited by bees to collect nectar.

How do onions grow larger?

If you sow onions in the garden, the seeds germinate in great numbers. The little plants soon stand close together in the rows. If you do not prick them out in time, they have little space to develop. If you love small bulbs, you will have no problem with this. Remove only so many seedlings that the distance between plants is two to three centimeters (about 1 inch). However, if you prefer thick onions, leave only one plant every five cm (2 in) or even every 10 cm (4 in) and pluck out the rest. That way, you’ll harvest big, thick onions.

How to store onions properly?

After harvesting the onions had time to dry on the bed, they are stored. Before storing the onions, turn off the dry foliage and pack them in nets. Alternatively, you can make decorative braids from the leaf scoops of freshly harvested onions and then hang the onions under a canopy to dry. Store the dried edible onions in an airy, dry place until ready to eat. A room with a normal temperature is better for this than a cold cellar, because low temperatures cause the onions to sprout prematurely. A well-ventilated pantry or attic are good places to store onions. Make sure the place is frost-proof.

Mistakes when storing onions

For onions to last long, they need to be stored in a cool, dark and dry place. Do not leave onions in the sun for too long after harvest time and do not store them in the refrigerator. The high humidity in the refrigerator will cause the vegetables to soften and quickly lose their flavor. Only peeled and cut onions will keep for a short time in the refrigerator. Wrap the onion in plastic wrap or place it cut-side down in a plastic container.

Do not wrap onions in aluminum foil. The chemical reaction of the foil will cause the metallic taste and parts of the aluminum to pass into the onion. If the storage location is too light, the onions will sprout. As a result, they quickly lose flavor, the onions collapse and nothing remains of the fruit. If the storage place is too humid, there is a risk of mold. Rotten or moldy onions must no longer be eaten.

How to not cry when cutting onions

If the onions come into use in the kitchen after the storage period, you can use various tricks when cutting onions so that you do not have to cry. For example, with a sip of water in your mouth, the tears will stay away. Alternatively, moisten all utensils in advance.

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