When and How to Harvest and Cure Onions

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Onions are one of the many vegetables that are relatively easy to grow, especially when planting them using sets.

One thing that is easier than growing onions and harvesting them. Curing onions takes a little more work, but it’s a breeze.

Here is a quick and easy guide on how to harvest and cure onions.

How to Harvest Onions

One of the biggest questions that new onion growers face is knowing when onions are ready to be harvested.

Onions can be harvested at any time and it really depends on how you like to use them as to when you can harvest them. If you enjoy the smaller green onions then you can harvest them once the tops grow to a desirable size.

If you prefer a large onion bulb you will need to let the onion grow until the green tops start to fade and die back. Usually you will start to see the bulb pop up out of the soil a bit and you can keep an eye on the size.

A good rule of thumb for knowing when to harvest onions is when the tops begin to fade and fall over at the neck. It’s easy to get this confused – the green tops may fall over from wind or rain, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the tops have fallen over.

It is when the tops fall over at the neck, just above the bulb. You can tell when this happens by gently squeezing the neck. If it feels soft then the onion should be harvested. If it feels firm you can leave the onion to mature, or you can harvest it.

Again, it’s up to your preference.

I’m growing an onion variety this year from Burpee called ‘Exhibition‘. I chose this variety for it’s excellent size, ease of growth, and superb onion taste. It’s bar far one of my favorite onions to grow and a great choice for a beginner.

These Onions Are Ready to Harvest

As you can see in the picture above, the tops on these onions have fallen over at the neck and have faded in color. This is a sure indication that the onions are ready for harvest. You can also see that the onions are starting to form a brownish skin – another sign that the onion is ready to be pulled.

It is always a good idea to harvest onions during a dry period of weather, if possible. Harvesting the onions when it has recently been dry will help speed up the curing. You can still harvest after it has rained, but curing may take longer.

To harvest an onion, firmly grasp the it at the lowest point of the neck and give it a quick tug. It should pop right out of the soil.

Grasp the Onion Firmly at the Neck

Pull Up On the Onion and It Should Pop Out

Gently brush any soil from around the bulb without damaging the skin too much.

Remove Any Loose Soil From the Onion Bulb

You can cut the tops off at this point if you wish, but isn’t necessary. If you do decide to cut the tops off leave about two inches of the neck attached to the bulb to prevent the top of the bulb from drying out too much during the curing process.

I prefer to leave the tops intact because I’ve had better results when curing, and in case I want to braid the onions for storage.

Now with all your onions harvested it is time to begin curing them.

How to Cure Onions

Once you have the onions harvested they will need to be cured so they can be stored properly without rotting.

The first step in curing your onions is to lay them out in the sun for drying. Spread the onions out on a table, or other flat surface. Place them directly in the sun, and make sure each one has space between them for the best results.

Spread the Onions Out for Curing

Leave them out in the sun for a day or two depending on the temperatures. If it is a very warm day then one day might be enough. If it is a bit cooler then two days might be needed.

After they have enjoyed the sun bath it is time for the second part of the curing.

Remove the onions from the sun and place them in a shady area that has good air circulation. You can bring them indoors if you do not have an available area. A shed or garage can work as well.

You can also use a shade cloth to cover the onions if you do not have any other choices. Avoid using anything that might collect moisture, like canvas or plastic. These may hold moisture and prevent the onions from drying properly.

Just make sure the onions are out of direct sunlight and receive good air circulation.

Let the onions cure in this manner for two to three weeks. At this time the onions should begin developing a nice brownish skin and the roots will turn brown and brittle. If you see this you know the onions are curing nicely.

Onion After Curing

The Roots Will Turn Brown and Brittle

You can also braid the onions at this time so they can be hung up for additional curing. The longer you can cure the onions the better they will keep.

Store onions in a cool, dark area away from direct sunlight. A root cellar or pantry is ideal. With proper curing your onions can be stored for up to six months.

Braiding Onions for Storing

Try These Delicious Onion Varieties

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Comments

  1. when you hang them up to cure them.. is it ok to do it indoors.. or would it be too pungent?

    • Hi Esther – You should keep them indoors to continue the curing. It is best to store them in a dark, cool location like a root cellar or pantry. You want to keep them away from light and heat as much as possible. As far as the smell, once they have cured for a few weeks they really don’t have a smell. If they develop a pungent, oniony odor they are probably going bad.

  2. I will try this. Thanks for the info. This is my first time growing onions.

  3. thanks!

  4. Thank you for your very informative article – esp. the pictures. In IL where we live it is so terribly humid. Will onions cure ok outside with that, or should I bring them inside into the air conditioning for a better result?
    Thanks.

    • Hi Ruth – You should be okay curing them outdoors. Cure them in the direct sunlight for a day or two, but after that make sure they are out of the sun. I usually bring mine indoors for the remaining cure. I leave them in the sun for a couple days, then bring them in, braid them, then hang them up in the pantry for the final curing.

  5. I really appreciate the pictures. Also a good information there on properly curing the onions can actually make them last for 6 months. That is quite a long time. I never thought onions could last that long. Some may have a wrong notion on keeping them under direct sunlight to prevent moisture. This is a very helpful post.

  6. I live in east central Iowa. If I leave my onions in the sun, they actually will get partially cooked, not cured at all.
    There is a saying about “don’t leave your onions in the August sun”, but I would include June and July sun in the axiom, too, in this area of the US..

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