Managing Onion Storage

March is the month we review how are vegetables in storage are doing and if needed, make alterations in that storage. Right now the onions are in need of some attention.

The onions we grow are what are called “multipliers”. These are very small onions that produce bunches. Early in the growing season they are provide greens which we pinch from the tops and then a little later, green onions. We no longer grow large yellow, white or red onions because they don’t keep for us and generally start rotting almost even before they are dug up.

Our small onions have been grown on this plot of land for about 50 years and before that on a different plot for many years. I now refer to them as a “landrace”, because they are perfectly adapted to our location. These onions have a much stronger flavor than large onions and you can’t really eat them raw because of that. If they are chopped up very fine and use in small amounts they can be eaten along with other raw plants, but they will quickly over power most dishes and palates.

STORING

We stored our multiplier onions in old orange bags hung from the ceiling in our shop. The temp doesn’t get lower than 1 C/34 F all winter. We do keep a small heater running in there when it’s super cold but that’s only on a few days out of the season. In other years we kept them in the cellar which is mostly dirt/cracked up concrete, but we decided to store in the shop this year because it was more accessible. At this time of year, we have to check our stored vegetables (carrots, beets, onions, potatoes) to make sure none are rotten or frozen. I also take the dry outer skins off to prevent any possible rot and make it easier for use when they are needed. After I do this, they sit in a bowl on the counter until they are used up. In the photo below, I’m taking the skins off and cutting up a few to dry in the drying room (our unheated porch with a drying rack).

I dry onions either on the drying racks or in the dehydrator. Both work well, but I don’t want to become reliant on electricity in order to store and use food – however that’s another blog post.

At this time of year, we don’t really have that many left for eating. The smaller onions (on the right in the photo) are put aside for planting when the ground is thawed. This is where we’re at right now for snow, so it will be a while before planting time. We will likely have to move snow in order to plant as you can see in the second photo.

When choosing onions it’s important to consider storage quality. Even onions we’ve bought from the store in years past have not lasted long, so I imagine poor storage quality is part of most types of onions likely because of the high water content. In our area, many people have stopped planting large onions altogether because of this reason. We prefer to have our own seed and not rely on having to purchase it from some unknown place.

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