Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Last of 'Em

For the last couple of weeks, every time I go into our basement, I've been met with the wafting aroma of onions that have spent the past winter happily residing down there.  The definite onion aroma is coming from onions that now no longer want to be kept in the dark recesses of storage, but ones that think it's time to sprout their little hearts out.

They've kept very well in the 50 degree basement temperature, but now most of those that are left have reached the point where they are not keeping well. 

Although I planted the same amount of yellow onions and red onions in the garden last season as I always do, I had a bumper crop that grew to be bigger than usual size.  So since each bigger onion went farther than a smaller one would, I suppose I used fewer onions.

All this is to say, I had quite a few remaining onions to sort through today, tossing the soft sprouted ones in the compost bin and keeping the ones that still looked good.


Surprisingly, the red onions that are said to not keep as well as the yellow onions seem to have made it through all these long months of storage in better shape.  Curiously, too, it's the onions that were smaller in size (both yellow and red) that seem to have kept better than the larger ones.  I've still got about half a milk crate left after I did my sorting.

Last year's onions still looking good at this date?  Can't complain about that at all.

32 comments:

  1. You just layer them in a milk crate? Are they on floor or up in the air? Mine don't stay firm

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    1. Lisa - I think the temp they're stored at is pretty crucial. Our basement stays right around 50 degrees and I think onions (garlic and winter squash, too) like to be right at that temp. (But they don't like moisture/humidity.) I used to put them in mesh bags and lay them on the shelves but the last few years I've just put them in these old milk crates. The plastic crates then go on the bottom and next to the bottom shelf of metal shelving units in the basement.

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  2. My husband uses a cardboard box with big round air holes in it, but our onions don't keep very well. I told him maybe the cardboard absorbs moisture from the air and promotes premature aging, but he just looks at me like I'm crazy. What's your secret?

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    1. Charade - Yep, the cardboard will absorb moisture, but the air holes should help a lot. The constant temperature of 50 degrees seems to be the key for me. The other thing is to make sure your onions are cured well before being put into storage. They need to be laid out in a well ventilated (but not hot), area where they don't get any sun. Leave them there until all the green tops are withered and dried out completely. Sometimes takes up to three weeks for this. Then I cut the tops off leaving about an inch of stem and gently rub the dirt and really loose first layer of skin off before putting them in storage.

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    2. Charade,

      Mama Pea's right on with the curing process. I've had mine curing for 3 weeks now. In another week they will be placed in a milk crate for long term storage. Then a small amount will be placed inside the house in the kitchen in a burlap bag for immediate use.

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  3. Wow! This is why I want a root cellar here. I could stock up all winter.

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    1. Kristina - I may have confused you. My onions are stored in the basement, not the root cellar. You would want more humidity and a lower temperature in the root cellar than the onions would like. But you know I do love my root cellar. We still have carrots down there that are as crisp and sweet as they were all winter! The taters are now gone though. Ate 'em all up. And the last of the apples got fed to the deer as they were getting spotted and shriveled.

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  4. Onions here tend to last through until the spring then they start sprouting, I wish we had a cellar :-)

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    1. Dawn McHugh - Yeah, I think no matter what you do, come spring time onions just naturally want to sprout.

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  5. Lucky you! I've had to BUY onions this past week. In a normal year ( where??) mine last through to the time to dig the new ones. I ran out this year......we used more than usual I'm guessing. I'm SHOCKED at how much an organic onion costs. I'm being very stingy with it now---and am watching the current crop closely. I may need to snitch a few early.................

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  6. Sue - Yes, indeedy-doo, organic food (of all kinds!) is expensive (isn't ALL food these days?), but we look on it as our health insurance.

    The minute my onions in the garden have reached scallion stage, I'd just as soon use them for just about all my cooking. But I know you kinda have to watch that practice or you won't end up with any storage onions!

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  7. Just a tip for others facing the same spoiling onion time of year.....My storage place wasn't ideal this year and about 2 weeks ago, they started going bad. I didn't want to throw them all out, so sorted out the questionable ones, cut out the good spots and put them in the food processor with just enough water to help them move around. Chopped them coarsely and put them in zip lok bags in the freezer squashed about 1/2" flat. Now I just pull out a bag, break off what I need and put the rest back. I feel glad to have saved them, and happy for the convenience in not having to chop them for every meal I use them in.

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    1. Karren - It sure IS a good idea, Karren. I thought about cutting out the bad spots of my onions and dehydrating them, but I already have several half gallon jars put by that way. (They keep beautifully, by the way.) But freezing some the way you did sure would save a lot of time when you have to peel an onion for cooking!

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  8. If you cut the root end off your onions and plant them they will grow a new onion. I do thaw with red, white, green onions as well as leeks.

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    1. Tombstone Livestock - How far down into the soil do you plant them?

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  9. How do you grow onions big enough for storage. Mine
    barely get bigger then the sets you can buy in stores.
    any tips on planting and growing.
    Thanks!!
    Rue

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    1. Rue - Onions are very easy for me to grow here in northern Minnesota. (We can grow just about any root crop, that's one plus for us!) I don't know where you live . . . is your climate too warm? Sorry I can't be any help to you on this.

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  10. Mama Pea,

    Mine are still curing for 1 more week just to play it safe in the kitchen on a sweater drying rack with a fixed gate on top as an additional shelf.......sometimes a woman has to improvise, lol.......

    I have a couple of questions for you, have you ever made onion marmalade? If you have, I was going to ask you about your recipe. If not, I will try this recipe I found on the internet. This will be a first for me on the marmalade with onions.

    I have to say your onions really do look good sitting there in the milk crate!!! This years onion planting surprised me with all the rain we've had, I would have thought we would have lost the crop. I only lost 1 onion out of the bunch.

    2nd question, you mention you put your onions in the compost. Do the onions break down okay? I've always avoided putting onions and potatoes in the compost because was under the impression they wouldn't break down well. I know you'll set me straight on the onion compost thing cuz your a good friend :-)

    Hugs,
    Sandy

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    1. No, I have never made onion marmalade, but now you've piqued my interest. It sounds very gourmet-ish!

      I know onions do like rain, but I've also read that when they are drying still in the soil (after the tops have fallen over), they don't want rain on them. (Easier said than done!) I think that's one of the reasons for making sure you cure them well before storage . . . gotta get any residue moisture out of 'em.

      I've never had trouble with onions or potatoes breaking down in the compost. I must admit if they are thrown in there, for one reason or another, while the weather is still good they will take root in the compost matter and send out healthy-looking green shoots but then when colder temps hit all that dies back and by spring they are pretty much decaying and on their way to good compost. In your climate I would think both onions and potatoes would compost without any trouble at all.

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  11. Mama Pea,

    This is the recipe I'm going to try.
    http://www.sbcanning.com/2013/01/canning-red-onions-marmalade.html

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  12. P.S. Thanks for the info on composting, I will toss my potatoes and onions in the compost from now on :-)

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    1. Sandy - In your more hospitable (warmer!) climate, you may end up growing your best potatoes and onions in your compost bin! (It has happened, you know.)

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  13. When the onion harvest is bigger than you think you'll consume before some of them start going bad, you can slice thickly (about 1") and dehydrate, then store in sealed bags or jars. Run your dehydrator out on the porch because they will stink up the house if you do it inside. I dehydrate things in my attic and that works very well. Even if we have a lot of humidity, the heat that is in the attic is enough to counteract it. Only takes a couple of days.

    Dehydrated onions can then be added to soups and stews, just as they come out of the jar. They can be powdered in a small food processor or with a mortar and pestle. They don't store well in powder form, though, as they tend to draw moisture from the air.

    I have grown new onions by replanting the root end of an onion -- just whatever's left after you've sliced the onion for use -- bury it shallowly in the garden, roots down, of course, keep it watered till li'l green onions shoot up out of the center. Then let it grow. I have two in the garden now that were started that way in cups inside during late winter and then planted out in the spring. They are now almost ready to harvest and are as big as the original onions were.

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    1. Ilene - I've got quite a good supply of dehydrated onions, and they sure are handy. It is amazing how much that onion-y smell can permeate the house when they're being dried, isn't it?

      Thanks for your info on planting the root end of an onion. Very clear and informative!

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  14. What fun to read all these wonderful comments after reading your post for today! I've learned more about onions and how to preserve than any of my books could relay. Your onions look beautiful! I've only tried growing onions here 1 year and we enjoyed them more as scallions, as I recall. Not sure any reached the mature stage as rains set in and the garden turned to mush that year. We aren't really set up for onion storage either. But I sure enjoy reading about yours and your readers'! :)

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    1. Lisa - Isn't that just the best thing about blogging? I agree with you. We can learn soooo much from the practical experience of others.

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  15. It was nice reading about that and learning something new as well. Best wishes!

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  16. I dehydrate any excess onions i get from others, but find that I need to reconstitute them before use or they'll remain a bit hard. Am I drying them for too long ... would really like to know. Thanks
    Yvette

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    1. Hi, Yvette - The only way I use my dehydrated onions is to toss them into soups and/or stews. I do this without reconstituting them first and it seems to work. I'm so afraid of not drying them enough and having them mold that I don't think you are drying yours too long. But maybe it all depends on how you use them after they've been dried?

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