Onions are the foundation of many gourmet masterpieces. If you grew them this summer, you’ll most likely want to save some for later use.
Onions are probably the most commonly used vegetables in everyday cooking. They form the base ingredient for most dishes, adding a sweet flavor and fragrance to them. Besides, it also enhances the looks of your regular meals, making them much more appetizing for the family. Brown them, sauté them, or eat them raw – they’re delicious no matter how you serve them. If you’ve planted them this spring, you’ll most probably be waiting for the most suitable time to start harvesting. But what is that suitable time? When are onions ready to harvest, and how should you pick them. Keep reading, and you’ll find all your answers.
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Ensuring A Successful Harvest
Before learning when and how to pick your onion crop, it’s essential to do all the right things to secure a successful onion harvest for you. They’re easy-going crops, but there are a couple of things you need to take care of. Plant them in organically fertile soil and ensure consistent moisture.
it’s essential to do all the right things to secure a successful onion harvest for you
Other than that, they also enjoy cooler temperatures since it helps with bulb development. Include straw mulch between the onion rows. Mulching won’t just help retain soil moisture, but it will also keep it from getting too hot during the summers.
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When Are Onions Ready To Harvest?
One of the greatest things about growing onions is the versatility you enjoy with them. Wait for it to mature if you want to harvest the bulbs. Alternatively, you can harvest a bit earlier to enjoy fresh green onions. So there are two kinds of harvests that we are looking at here. Let’s see when each one is ready.
When To Pick Green Onions?
If you want to harvest green onions, you’ll just have to wait for about a month until they’re ready to be picked. Harvest them when they’re about 6 inches above the soil. You may be inclined to wait just a little longer for the shoots to grow taller, but this isn’t advisable. Waiting longer will make the stalk tougher and less flavorful. Remember to pull out all the bulbs that have developed flower stalks and use them immediately since they aren’t suitable for storage.
When To Pick Onion Bulbs?
Onion bulbs will take a lot longer to develop completely. You’ll generally have to wait for about 100 days after planting to harvest the bulbs. Monitor the visible part of the bulbs to know when they reach the right size. Wait for the green tops to turn brown and fall over. This is the indication that the bulbs have grown to maturity. Wait another two weeks after the tops fall over for the onion bulbs to become fully mature.
Check For The Signs Of Ripeness
Once the onions reach the three-month mark and the green tops turn brown and fall over, don’t pick the entire crop just yet. Pull out a single onion and examine it to decide whether the rest of the crop qualifies for a harvest. Here’s what you need to be looking for in the onion you’ll pull out for inspection:
- Different varieties of onions grow to different sizes. In general, you need to be looking at a diameter of 3 to 5 inches for a mature onion bulb. If the size isn’t large enough yet, leave the rest of the onions to grow for another week or two.
- Press a few inches above the bulb to find soft spots. The softness is a sign that they have grown completely and are ready to be picked.
How To Pick Onions
Once the tops have withered and fallen over, stop watering the crop and give it a week or two for the soil to dry completely. Moisture isn’t good for maturing onions as it can cause rotting. If there’s any rain prediction during this period, go ahead and harvest all the onions before they’re ruined.
Choose a day when it’s not too hot, and harvest early in the morning. Pull the onions out gently with the stems intact. Cutting of the stem can increase the chances of rotting, so it’s best to keep it in place. If you’re using tools, carefully dig around the onions and make sure you don’t rip the skin. Shake off the excess dirt from the bulbs.
Lay your harvest on the ground in a dry, sunny spot, leaving them to dry completely for a day or two.
To keep onions, you must first ‘cure’ them, which essentially involves completely drying the outer skins. To do so, place your onions in a covered area. In a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame, onions can be dried on racks or between layers of newspaper.
Arrange the onions in a single layer, taking care not to damage or bump them. Leave them in a single layer on the counter. It’s perfect if it’s warm (75-80 degrees F), dry, and windy. The necks of the onions will progressively wither as they cure, and the papery skins around the bulbs will tighten.
You should cut off the roots and remove any loose skin at this point. Cut the stems to within two or three inches (5-7cm) of the bulb neck if you wish to keep your bulbs as onion strings. If not, cut the stem all the way down to the neck.
How to Store Onions After You Have Harvested It?
Onions should be stored away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. A garage or a space in the house that is not heated is excellent. No soft or thick-necked bulbs should be stored.
A halved or sliced onion will keep for approximately a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To prevent oxidation, moisture absorption, and odor, keep them in an airtight container.
Appropriate Storing Conditions for Onions
- It’s time to bring the onions inside once they’ve dried entirely. To avoid condensation on the bulbs, gradually adapt them to the lower temperature difference.
- This happens all the time in my root cellar. They come into an interior temperature that is 10-20oF cooler than outside after curing outside. The temperature of an unheated room gradually reduces as the weather changes.
- The ultimate objective would be to get it to the best possible storage conditions. The recommended temperature for long-term onion preservation is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. The humidity level for onion storage should be between 65 and 75 percent.
- Too much humidity encourages root development, but a high temperature encourages sprouting. When high temperatures and excessive humidity are combined, decay and quality suffer.
Signs That Tell When Are Onions Ready to Harvest
Here are three signs that tell whether your onions are ready to harvest or not.
- Soft Neck
When the area above the neck (where the leaves meet the bulb) begins to feel mushy, the transfer of carbohydrates from the leaves to the rings has completed, indicating that the rings’ final cell division has happened. To avoid sour skin and black mold in damp soils, you should water less regularly at this stage.
- Tops Falling Over
Even though not all of the tops are down, when some of them fall over, it represents a 100 percent soft neck. You may pluck the onions and eat them right away if you plan to eat them soon away. At this point, the skin has developed well and there are enough green tips to avoid sunscald while drying.
The onion has ceased sucking sugars from the top and sucking moisture from its roots once all of the tops have been removed, but skin growth will continue. Before harvesting, we generally wait until 85-90 percent of the tops have fallen over.
- Last Leaf
Examine all of the leaves, especially the one that just appeared (last leaf). From the oldest to the youngest leaf, the leaf sheaths develop and dry. If you remove the onions from the soil before the last leaf has dried, they may rot during storage. Before pulling the onions out of the soil, make sure the neck cavity or top of the onion is not submerged or squishy.
Tips for Harvesting, Curing and Storing Your Onions
What’s the trick to picking onions at the perfect moment, curing them so they last all winter, and storing them so they don’t sprout or mold? Here are some pointers for choosing onions when they’re ripe and ready, extending their shelf life in storage, and ensuring they stay as fresh as the day they were harvested.
- Stop watering after the first few plants’ leaves begin to fall down and let the onions in the ground for 7 to 14 days (depending on how dry or wet your environment is) to continue ripening.
Keeping the onions dry at this point prevents them from spoiling. If the majority of your onions are fully mature, harvest them all before a major downpour, since moisture causes problems for mature onions.
- After harvesting the roots, quickly dry them out. Pull each onion bulb out by the bulb on a dry, sunny day, or dig around the plant to extract the bulb from the earth.
Grasping the weakening stem might cause it to completely fall off, so make sure the stem stays intact to avoid rot. Allow the onions to dry out for a day or two on the ground or in another open, sunny place.
- Trim the onions to make it easier to recognize which ones need to be used first. Trim the roots and snip off the stems with garden scissors once the onion tops and roots have dried completely. With the stems, a couple of layers of the onion’s outer skin will normally flake off, leaving you with a clean, smooth onion.
Onions Problems and Their Troubleshooting
- Worms are burrowing into the roots of the plants, causing them to become stunted. Click beetle wireworms are soil-dwelling larvae that resemble wire-jointed worms. Check the soil before planting; if wireworms are present, flood the area. Remove infected plants and soil from the area. Maintain a clean and debris-free garden.
- Leaves become yellow, and the bulbs rot and disintegrate in a delicate, watery manner; the bulbs may be speckled black. Bulb rot, often known as white rot, is a fungal disease that spreads via the soil. Plants that are contaminated should be removed and destroyed. Crop rotation is important. Keep weeds out of the garden, since they might house fungus spores.
So there it is! Look for all the signs and understand precisely when to pick your onions so that you can store them easily. Once you harvest them right and follow all the recommended guidelines for curing and storage, you’ll enjoy your homegrown onions all through the winters.
If you’ve got a couple of tiny onions among your harvest, replant them next spring together with the rest of the onion crops. They’ll mature much earlier than the rest of the crop so you can enjoy some early season onions.
Once you start growing your own onions, you’ll know that the flavor of the ones you get at the grocery store is nowhere close to what you can get out of your own garden!