Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Harvesting, Drying and Storing Garden Onions April 17, 2013

Onions are one of the most rewarding vegetables to grow, in my opinion.  I late Fall, I order onion sets from Dixondale Farms.  They come in bundles of sets that are bout 5-6 inches tall.  I plant them fairly deep into very well aerated soil, so that they can expand and grow large.  Some don’t do much, for whatever reason, but most of those I plant mature into good sized onions.

Onion sets

Onion sets


Last year, I planted a mix of 1015’s, named by the date the onion seeds are planted, October 15; Red Creole onions, and White Bermudas.  Several weeks ago, a few of the onions started to bolt, or go to seed, which means they will not mature any further and should be harvested.   When they bolt, a hard stalk grows up the center of the onion, and forms what would eventually be a flower, if you didn’t pull them.  They are still perfectly good after they bolt, but should be harvested.

Bolting onion

Bolting onion


I harvested perhaps 15 bolting onions, mostly the red ones.  I’m not sure why, but the red onions seem to bolt first – perhaps because of our extreme and unseasonable weather variations.  (As I sit here on April 17, 2013, a cold front will soon roar into Austin, leaving temperatures in the low to mid 40’s at night.)

Last week, several of the onions had started laying down, a sign that they are finished maturing, and will need to be harvested soon.  After a ridiculously busy weekend, wherein I didn’t see my garden, I was surprised Monday, to find that nearly half of my onion crop was laying on its side.  I finally had time to pull the finished onions out of the ground today.

We are done!

We are done!

Harvested Onions

Harvested Onions

Some were moderate size, some were the size of softballs, a new experience for me.   My best onion harvest yet, and some of the largest ones are still in the ground.

I rinsed them with the hose over the remaining growing onions, so as not to waste any precious water.  I then moved them to the top of my fire pit, which is metal mesh, which allows great ventilated space for the onions to dry and form the outer skin you see on grocery store onions.  Naturally, I kept some for immediate eating.  They are so tender and sweet, I sauteed some as a fajita topper for dinner.

Pile of onions

Pile of onions

Once they have dried out a bit, I use the garden  snippers to remove the green stalk and some of the roots.  I then transfer them to a shady spot for a day or two until the snipped part dries out.

Drying onions

Drying onions

Once dried, the onions can be hung in a vented bag and will store for months.  I usually run out of my onions 7-8 months after harvesting.

So far most of the red onions that I’ve pulled are fairly medium to smallish.  Perhaps not enough for a good round of red onion pickling, a favorite of mine for pickling and canning.  I can rely on the farms and farmer’s markets for those.

Pickled onions

Pickled onions


The universe appears to be in my favor this early Spring, as I have several peppers that will be ready for harvest in the next week, more fresh onions in the ground, and potatoes flowering and nearly ready for harvest.  I love little more than sautéed onions, peppers, and potatoes in some Springdale Farm scrambled eggs.  Such goodness almost makes the wait for the first tomatoes bearable, and then after that, its game on!    And then I’m all about salsa.  Eating seasonably is so satisfying; the wait makes every harvest taste so much better.



9 Responses to “Harvesting, Drying and Storing Garden Onions”

  1. aneelee Says:

    my husband, a fellow onion lover, just peered over my shoulder as i read your post and said, “we should be friends with her. she can teach us how to grow onions.” indeed! beautiful little crop you have there!

  2. I hope you told him that you are friends with me, and that I would love to help you an any way you need!

  3. Lauren Says:

    This is so helpful! I am growing onions for the first time now, and I didn’t know about harvesting signs, or how to dry the onions. Thanks!

  4. jenj Says:

    So my onions are starting to flower too. I’ve heard you can pinch the flowers off and they will keep growing, or is that not true? None of mine have laid down yet. Oh, and one of my ‘taters is starting to flower! Looks like it’s going to be onions and taters with fresh eggs for breakfast this weekend!

    • Actually, if you pinch off the flowers on the onions, that will allow moisture to enter the stalk and they can rot from the inside out. Best to just pull and eat. You’ll know the taters are ready when the flower blooms die off and the plants begin to wilt. There surely are potatoes down there, but they likely are quite small. A common potato rule is 30/30/30. 30 days to come up after planting, 30 days until they flower, then 30 more days until harvest. Good luck!

      • And, your onions that have bolted need to be eaten soon rather than stored.

      • JenJ Says:

        Wow, I didn’t know that about onions! I’m so new to all this. Looks like I’ll be digging them all up this week. Now, where is my recipe for French Onion Soup? LOL! Thanks for the tips!

  5. Cindy Says:

    Love, love, love onions. Your jars of pickled onions look yummy!

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