Processing Onions for Long-term Storage

The Tears I Shed

I love onions. Such a mundane little vegetable – but it has such a pleasant shape and flavor, especially the Vidalia variety. Georgia has a right to be proud of that little onion. There is no onion sweeter and you can eat it like an apple – if you like onion flavored apples, I guess! Personally, I think the onion is a necessity in cooking because it makes all the difference in the world…well…second only to tons of garlic. I bet you’d love to have an up close and personal conversation with us at the OPC™ digs, eh?

Onions are one of the simplest veggies to put in a garden. Cheap too! A bundle of onions costs around $1.50 to $4 and offers you anywhere from 50 to 100 sets. I usually put out two or three bundles. Row furrows are dug, fertilizer is sprinkled down the center of the furrows and then chopped in and covered to make a raised row. I plant my onions using a stick in one hand to make a hole and then dropping an onion set with the other hand. I then go back and pull the dirt up around each set using both hands (yes, I wear gardening gloves) which also straightens the onions to standing. In my neck of the woods, I have to plant them deeper than usual because our soil is a sandy loam and dries out really fast in our stiff winds. Once the onions are established, I pull the dirt away from them to expose the top of the bulb. Turning the soil between rows can be done by using a hoe, a mantis or a tiller or mulch can be used as well. This year, we had a dickens of a time keeping a really weird grass in check. Hand weeding around each bulb was a not fun necessity, but this has been an unusual year. The only other maintenance that we perform on our growing onions is pinching off any seed heads if they form and a side dress of 10/20/10 fertilizer every three weeks if there has been much rain. Otherwse, a series of soaker hoses does the trick.

The nice thing about onions is that you can pick them at any stage of the game. Small onions are great for salads and garnish as ‘green onions’. Medium sized onions are wonderful to throw in with green beans or pintos or they can be left to expand to slicing size.

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At the later stage of growth, onions have the soil pulled away from the bulb to allow the bulb free room to grow.

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Eventually, the green tops start to fall over.

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After the tops fall over, the onions are left for about two weeks before pulling.

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Onions are easy to pull out of the ground.

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We use 5 gallon buckets to gather our onions. Makes for easy carrying.

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I wash my onions a few at a time in a big stainless tub/bowl or in another large bucket. After cutting off green tops no closer than 1 1/2″ from the bulb, I submerge the bulbs in water and use my hand to wash them back and forth.

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I separate out sizes of bulbs and freeze the smallest ones for seasoning beans, etc. or cut them up for dehydrating. These I prepare, after washing, by removing the roots, the stem and the outer skin.

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The medium to large ones are left whole to cure on racks for use as fresh onions. The roots and the stem will dry up and will be clipped. These onions will stay fresh until as long as November or December, stored in a cool dark place.

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The largest are sliced and frozen on cookie sheets covered with wax paper and will be put into freezer bags. These will be used for homemade onion rings, for cooking on the grill and for use in casseroles.

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Onions for dehydrating are chopped by hand because the food processor makes the pieces too small. The chopped onion is spead out on dehydrator racks. I start the process outside because the smell is overpowering and keeps you from crying. :-) After about 6 hours, I move the dehydrator inside.

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After drying about 15 to 18 hours, depending on the moisture content, these onions are packaged into jars. Here, I have dried some of both our yellow and white onions. Storage for these dried onions is years. They are wonderful for using in soups and stews but you can also use them in chicken or tuna salad or for seasoning a cooking hamburger by putting a tablespoon or two into a bowl, covering with water and then placing into the frig overnight. You will have rehydrated onions to use like fresh! That is actually what some restaurants do.

Happy Gardening!

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18 Responses to “

Processing Onions for Long-term Storage

  1. Ken Roper says:

    Good info on onions! Do you have an article on garlic (growing, harvesting, propagating)?

  2. Candy C. says:

    Great info Mary Beth! I like the dehydrated ones, they look cool in the jars!

  3. Hawkeye says:

    I am jealous, jealous, jealous… that you have a garden that is. The soil is very shallow here in Tennessee with stone not far below the surface. But you may know that already since you spent time here. I don’t know if we’ll be able to have a garden, but I’m sure we’ll give it a go at some point… even if we have to install raised beds.

    (:D) Best regards…

  4. Beth says:

    I enjoyed seeing your crop and the results of all your work! I recently bought 25 pounds of Vidalias my sister’s club was selling. I froze a good amount chopped, sliced, and quartered to share with my daughters. However, even in the freezer bags the smell was overpowering. I finally had to buy large plastic containers to put the bags in. Do you have any problem with this?

  5. Ken, I need to do that, but it will be Fall before that planting starts and it’s a long process. I will keep that in mind! Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. They do look neat, don’t they?! It’s fun having all the different colors of dried veggies lined on the shelves.

  7. Yep, raised beds are going to be your best bet. Middle Tennessee has a pretty rocky base in lots of areas, however, there are places where it is amazing. Lots better than ours. Do raised beds and you’ll do just fine!

  8. Hi Beth. Actually, I only freeze the vidalias and Texas 1015s so there doesn’t seem to be as much odor. Some of the yellow onions are really potent and will infiltrate your whole freezer. I wonder if a box of soda would help.

  9. Christy says:

    Thanks for so much gooooo info! Your photos really help us first-timers. Something I have done for years with commercially dried onions: if the chunks are too big for the recipe, just crush ‘em with a rolling pin….or a wine bottle……or a Mason jar. Then you have control of the particle size, all the way down to powder, if that’s what you want.

  10. Thanks Christy! If you have suggestions for topics that you are interested in, send ‘Em our way!

  11. Nana says:

    Now I know what to do with that large bag of Vidalias that we bought from our local club! We look forward to them every year. Vidalias don’t keep long here in Georgia’s heat and humidity, and I usually keep a lot in the frig to use fresh, but I will try freezing and dehydrating some of them. Yum!~ I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this before!

  12. "Mrs. B" says:

    What a worker bee you are! Who can keep up with you? Excellent job!

  13. Connie FG says:

    Can’t wait for my onions to come in so I can dehydrate some for the first time. Thanks for the incentive! From one FG to another!

  14. Good luck, Connie!!

  15. Umm, Mrs. B, you??!! :-)

  16. How lucky are you to be in Vidalia country, Nana!!? They don’t last long, but oh my are they good.

  17. Sarah R says:

    I just made my first batch. I need onion goggles….was crying so bad I look like I’ve been beat up. And I put the dehydrator in the garage so I wouldn’t have to smell it all night. I can’t wait!

  18. Oh yeah. The fumes are a killer! :-) You will enjoy them. I made soup yesterday – I know! It’s 104 degrees outside. But soup is forever! – and I used the dried onions. Fabulous.