Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Preserving Onions

by National Gardening Association Editors

Storage is the great thing about onions - there aren't many vegetables that keep as well and taste as fresh as onions do after storage.

Storage Tips

Here are a few storage pointers:

  • Don't wash your onions before storing them.
  • You probably can't store all your onions. Use up the immature, soft and big-necked ones first, and store just the mature and thoroughly cured bulbs. Hanging them in mesh bags (sorted by size) is a good way to store them in a root cellar.
  • Onions will keep best at temperatures between 32&deg F and 40&deg F, and the closer to 32&deg F the better. The temperature in a root cellar is usually a little higher. That's okay - root cellar temperature is a compromise anyway. (You can't please all the vegetables.)
  • The humidity should be low, too, to slow down root development and the spread of rot organisms. Good ventilation is also important.
  • It's not necessary to have a root cellar to store onions. If you follow the basics of onion storage, you'll have satisfactory results.

Storage Basics

The storage basics are:

  • Store only mature, well-cured onions.
  • Keep onions in a cool dry, dark spot.
  • Allow for good ventilation.
  • Check occasionally for soft spots, sprouting, etc.

Braiding

If you want to braid onions together - an old, effective and attractive way to store them - do it soon after the harvest while the tops are still flexible. You might want to use some twine to reinforce the tops, and be sure to hang the braids in a well-ventilated, warm, shady spot to cure. After the onions have cured, store them in a cool, dark place, and bring out one braid at a time to use. The braids are pretty to look at, and they're a handy way to keep onions. (Garlic can be braided, too.)

Drying

Onions are easy to dry, and being lightweight, they reconstitute easily. Peel and slice them in rings about 1/8 inch thick and put them in a dehydrator at about 140° F until they're nearly dry. To keep the pieces from browning, bring the temperature down to 130&deg F for the last hour or so and keep testing for dryness. If you don't own a dehydrator, try drying onions in your oven. Spread them on a cookie sheet and leave them in a barely warm oven for several hours, checking periodically.

When the onions are dry, remove them from the dehydrator, cool them and store them in sealed containers in a cool, dry place.

If you like snack foods, onion rings that have been French-fried and then dried in a dehydrator are a delicious party treat. They don't store well unless they've been vacuum sealed, but they're so good they won't stay around long enough to need storage!

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