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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.


Onion Harvest

onions at harvest

There is a lot to know about onions. The varieties and planting times are specific for each region, so you might want to spend some time learning the ins-and-outs about onion growing to have success. Assuming you have done that and have had an abundant harvest, here are some tips of what to do next. If you harvested your onions when the tops were starting to bend over, but while they were still green, you are on the right track. If you put the onions in an airy place and let the tops die over the next several weeks you will have material to braid with once the tops are dry.

There are about as many ways to dry onions with their tops attached as there are people drying them. If what you are doing is working for you, and your method is different than mine, that’s okay. I have settled on drying my onions on 2”x 4” welded wire fencing bent around into a circle measuring 2’ wide and 3’ tall. I either set the fence circle on two cement blocks or attach baling twine to each side and hang it from the rafters in the barn. My goal is to increase air circulation.

The onions hang from between the 2”x 4” spacing in the fence, with the bulbs on the inside and the green tops on the outside of the circle. It looks pretty packed when you do that, but the tops soon dry, allowing air to the bulbs. You could leave the onions like this for quite some time, but you should really inspect them after a few weeks when the tops have dried. There are always some that are beginning to go soft and need to be used first. Those will go directly to your kitchen for summer cooking and canning.

Onions can be cut up and easily dried in a solar or electric dehydrator. For long term storage for my best onions (no softness anywhere) I braid them. You will find directions for braiding and photos of my drying set-up at Homeplace Earth. If you don’t have the tops still on your onions, which would eliminate braiding, you will need to store the bulbs in an airy place. Wire racks or net bags would be an option. Do not pack them away in box in a closet. Think air circulation.

Onions are a health food that should be in everyone’s diet. In the article Onions Can Help Prevent Inflammation by Linda Richards, found on the website for the Arthritis Foundation, onions were praised for their help in reducing inflammation. Quercetin, found in higher amounts in shallots and yellow and red onions and lesser amounts in white and sweet onion varieties, is the ingredient in onions responsible for easing the inflammation of arthritis, as well as reducing heart disease and helping to prevent the spread of cancer.

I already knew about all that, but found some new-to-me information in this article. According to a study done at the University of Berne in Switzerland and published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, onions could be good for your bones by helping to reduce bone loss. Thoughts are that it would work the same way as alendronate (the generic name for Fosamax) in treating osteoporosis! Granted, this Swiss study was done on rats and more research is needed for confirmation in humans, but all signs point to great benefits to be had if you increase the amount of onions you eat.

With all these health benefits in mind, wouldn’t it be comforting to have braids of onions hanging in your food storage areas to feed your family throughout the year?

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth.


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