How to Tell When Onions Are Ready to Harvest: Essential Tips for Optimal Yield and Quality

How to Tell When Onions Are Ready to Harvest?

Onions are ready to harvest when the leaves begin to flop over or turn brown at the edges.

This indicates that the onion bulbs have reached maturity and can be lifted from the soil.

After harvesting, the bulbs should be laid on the soil surface or on a wire rack to dry in the sun for about a week.

If the weather is wet, the onions can be dried under cover in a well-ventilated greenhouse or tunnel.

The outer skins of the onions need to be fully dried, so they should be cured by drying them on racks or layers of newspaper in a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame.

This drying process may take up to two weeks.

Once the skins of the onions are papery, the leaves are completely shriveled, and the roots are wiry and dry, they are ready to be stored.

Before storing, the roots should be cut off and any loose skin should be removed.

Thick-necked or soft bulbs should not be stored and should be used as soon as possible.

To store individual onions, they can be placed in net bags and hung up off the ground.

It is important to check the bags periodically and remove any onions that have gone bad.

Another way to store onions is by making an onion string.

This is done by cutting a length of string and tying the ends together to form a loop.

The onion is then inserted through the loop and the stem is bent around the back of the string, returning it through the loop and pushing it to the bottom.

In summary, the readiness of onions for harvest can be determined by the signs of floppy leaves, brown edges, and maturity of the tops.

Thorough drying and curing are crucial before storing the onions.

Key Points:

  • Onions are ready to harvest when the leaves flop over or turn brown at the edges
  • Harvested bulbs should be laid on the soil surface or wire rack to dry in the sun for about a week
  • If the weather is wet, onions can be dried under cover in a well-ventilated greenhouse or tunnel
  • Onions need to be fully dried and cured by drying them on racks or layers of newspaper for up to two weeks
  • Once onions have papery skins, shriveled leaves, and dry roots, they are ready to be stored
  • Storage options include hanging them in net bags off the ground or making an onion string for storage


Did You Know?

1. Did you know that the average onion takes about 90-120 days from the time it’s planted until it’s ready to be harvested? That’s almost four months of waiting for those flavorful bulbs to reach maturity!

2. Onions actually have a built-in indicator to let you know when they’re ready to be harvested. Once the onion tops start to naturally bend and fall over, it’s a clear sign that the bulbs have grown to their full potential and are ready for harvesting.

3. One fascinating fact about onions is that they can be harvested and enjoyed at various stages of growth. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can harvest them early as scallions or green onions. On the other hand, if you let them mature fully, you’ll end up with the strong-flavored storage onions commonly found in stores.

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4. When harvesting onions, it’s essential to handle them with care. Onions that are roughly handled or exposed to excess sunlight can develop a condition called “greening.” This causes the outer layers to turn green and become bitter. Therefore, it’s recommended to gently lift the onions from the ground, avoiding any rough handling or prolonged exposure to sunlight.

5. While most onions are ready to be harvested when their tops fall over, there are exceptions! Some onion varieties, known as “long-day” onions, need a specific amount of daylight to form bulbs properly. If you’re growing these varieties, make sure to wait until at least half of the onion tops have fallen over before harvesting. This ensures the best flavor and bulb formation.

Signs That Onions Are Ready To Harvest

When it comes to harvesting onions, timing is crucial. Knowing when to harvest can ensure optimal yield and quality. There are several signs that indicate when onions are ready to be lifted from the soil and brought to your kitchen table.

The first sign to look for is when the leaves of the onion plant begin to flop over or turn brown at the edges. This is an indication that the bulbs have reached maturity and are ready to be harvested. Additionally, counting the number of leaves on your onions can provide further insight. When onion plants have at least seven leaves, it is time to assess their readiness for harvest.

There are three main signs of maturity to consider. Firstly, check for a soft neck, which is when the area above the neck of the onion feels soft. This indicates that the bulb has reached its full size and is ready to be harvested. Secondly, look for tops falling over. As some of the tops of the onions naturally fall over, this signifies that the plants have completed their growth cycle. Lastly, examine the leaves, especially the most recent one, to ensure they are dry before lifting the onions out of the soil. Dry leaves indicate that the onions have reached maturity and are ready for harvest.

  • Flopping leaves or browning edges
  • Counting leaves
  • Soft neck
  • Falling tops
  • Dry leaves

Drying Onions After Harvesting

After the onions have been harvested, proper drying is essential to ensure their longevity and storage quality. Lay the bulbs on the soil surface or on a wire rack, exposing them to the sun for a week. However, if the weather is wet, it is advisable to dry the onions under cover in a well-ventilated greenhouse or tunnel.

During the drying process, the onions need to be cured, which involves drying the outer skins fully. This can be accomplished by using racks or layers of newspaper in a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame. It typically takes up to two weeks for the onions to fully dry out. To determine if they are ready for storage, check for papery skins, completely shriveled leaves, and wiry and dry roots.

Once the onions have dried and cured properly, it is important to trim off the roots and remove any loose skin before storing them. Thick-necked or soft bulbs should not be stored and should be used as soon as possible to avoid spoilage.

Storing Onions After Curing

Proper storage is key to preserving the quality and flavor of your onions. After curing, individual onions can be placed in net bags and hung up off the ground. This allows for good air circulation and helps prevent rotting. It is important to periodically check the bags and remove any onions that show signs of spoilage to prevent it from spreading.

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Another practical and visually appealing way to store onions is by creating onion strings. To make an onion string, cut a length of string and tie the ends together to form a loop. Insert the onion through the loop and bend the stem around the back of the string, returning it through the loop and pushing it to the bottom. This method allows for easy access and adds a rustic touch to your pantry.

Different Methods For Drying Onions

There are several methods that can be used for drying onions, depending on the available resources.

If the weather conditions are suitable, one simple and effective option is to lay the bulbs on the soil surface or on a wire rack in the sun. However, if it’s rainy or wet outside, it is recommended to dry the onions under cover in a well-ventilated greenhouse or tunnel.

Another method for drying onions is to use racks or layers of newspaper in a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame. This approach provides a controlled environment that promotes proper drying and curing. Additionally, these structures offer protection from adverse weather conditions and allow for good air circulation.

Regardless of the chosen method, it typically takes up to two weeks for onions to fully dry out. It’s important to regularly check the onions during this time to ensure they are becoming papery, with completely shriveled leaves and wiry, dry roots. These characteristics indicate that the onions are ready for storage.

Tips For Storing Onions

Proper storage techniques are crucial to maintaining the quality and shelf life of your onions. After the drying and curing process, it is important to trim off the roots and remove any loose skin before storing the onions. This helps minimize the risk of spoilage and keeps the bulbs fresh for longer.

When storing individual onions, placing them in net bags and hanging them up is an effective method. By hanging the bags off the ground, good air circulation is ensured, reducing the chances of rotting and prolonging their storage life. Regularly inspect the bags and remove any onions that have gone bad to prevent the spread of spoilage.

Another practical and visually pleasing storage option is onion strings. By creating onion strings, you can easily access your onions while adding a charming touch to your kitchen or pantry. To make an onion string, simply tie a loop of string and insert the onions, bending the stem around the back of the string and securing it through the loop. This allows for easy retrieval of individual onions as needed.

  • Trim off roots and loose skin before storage
  • Hang individual onions in net bags off the ground for good air circulation
  • Regularly inspect and remove any spoiled onions
  • Create onion strings for easy access and aesthetic appeal

Harvesting Onions For Storage Vs Immediate Use

The timing of onion harvest can vary depending on your intended use. If you plan on storing your onions for an extended period, it is recommended to wait for around 85-90% of the tops to fall over before harvesting. This ensures that the bulbs have reached their maximum size and have fully matured, resulting in better storage quality.

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However, if you require immediate use of your onions, you can harvest them earlier. When harvesting for immediate consumption, the onions should still exhibit signs of maturity such as a soft neck and dry leaves, but they do not need to be fully cured and dried. These onions can be used fresh and their shorter shelf life is not a concern.

Knowing when onions are ready to be harvested is crucial for optimal yield and quality. Pay attention to signs such as flopping or browning leaves, a soft neck, and tops falling over. Proper drying and curing is key to preserving the onions’ quality and flavor. Use methods such as sun drying, greenhouse drying, or newspaper racks to ensure thorough drying. When storing the onions, trim off the roots, remove loose skin, and choose storage options like net bags or onion strings. Harvesting onions for storage or immediate use depends on the desired shelf life and can be determined by the percentage of tops that have fallen over. With these tips, you will be able to enjoy the fruits of your onion harvest for many months to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you leave onions in the ground?

Onions should be left in the ground until their leaves begin to flop over or turn brown at the edges, indicating that they are ready to be harvested. This usually signifies that they have reached a usable size and are ready for storage. Once this cue is observed, it is recommended to carefully dig them out of the ground using a fork, allowing them a week to dry before further storage or use.

How many onions do you get from one plant?

The number of onions you can expect to get from one plant depends on how you choose to harvest them. If you plant onion sets and harvest them as scallions or green onions, you can expect to get one onion per bulb. These sets can be planted 2 inches apart to maximize the number of scallions you can harvest. Conversely, if you allow the onion plant to mature into a full-sized cooking onion, you should plant the sets 4-6 inches apart. In this case, each bulb will produce one onion, resulting in a smaller overall yield compared to harvesting them as scallions.

What is the harvesting stage of onions?

The harvesting stage of onions occurs when the leafy green tops start to yellow and collapse, leaving an upright short neck above the bulb. This signals that the bulbs have fully formed and are now ready to be harvested. The process of harvesting onions involves carefully pulling them from the ground, ensuring that their skins remain intact, and allowing them to dry before storing or selling them.

Why are my onions so small?

The size of your onions may be due to overcrowding. When onions are planted too close together, they have to compete for resources like nutrients and water. This competition can hinder their growth, resulting in smaller bulbs. To ensure optimal growth, it is recommended to space onions 3-4 inches apart, whether you are directly seeding them, transplanting seedlings, or using onion sets. By providing them with adequate space, you can give each onion plant the opportunity to thrive and produce larger bulbs.

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