Summer is slowly coming to an end and it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you have grown onions this year they should be ready to harvest and stored away for future use. Curing your onion harvest is very important to make sure your onion supply will last well after your garden is finished for the year.
You can tell when to start to harvest your onions when about 80%-90% of the stalks start to flop over. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with them. It just means they have reached their maturity and are ready for the next stage, which is harvesting. First, if you have some onions still standing upright carefully bend them over. This can be done with a broom or with your hands. Allow the onions to remain in this position for about 10 days, no longer than 2 weeks.
After approximately ten days, pull your onions and allow them to lay in the garden for another two days. This allows the onion root system to dry out. In a real hot climate the onions should dry in under a day.
After the onions have dried in the garden for a couple days, the next procedure is the curing process. Bring the dried onions in out of the sun into warm covered area, like a shed or porch where you can get good air circulation. Turn the onions a couple times during this process to ensure they cure completely. You don’t want to store any onions that are still wet. This process may take from two to three weeks. Another way to cure your onions is by braiding. You want to braid them right after you bring them in out of the garden while the tops are still flexible. Use a piece of twine to reinforce the tops.
Once they are cured you can store them in a mesh bag in your root cellar. If you do not have a root cellar store them in well ventilated cool room with low humidity. The temperature should be between 32 and 40 degrees. This will slow down root development and the spread of rot organisms.
Onions are a wonderful vegetable which store easily and will last for months depending for the variety. The best onions to grow in our area are mid or day neutral varieties. Some of the ones that grow well here are Candy Hybrid and Sweet Candy Red.
Contributed by Rich Young, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or CSUmg2@elpasoco.com. Photos courtesy of Rich Young.