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How to Cure and Store Onions

Updated: Mar 26

Hopefully you have grown a beautiful crop of onions, and now has come the time to harvest, cure, and store your onions for use for the coming year. Curing onions properly goes a long way to making sure they will last through to next year.

Garden onions in a wheel barrel with a girl pushing the wheel barrel.
Onion harvest, all ready to be cured.

When to Harvest Onions

The best time to harvest onions is around 2 or 3 weeks after the tops have naturally fallen over, BEFORE risk of fall frost, and before the tops turn completely brown.

Harvest onions BEFORE risk of fall frost

Onions growing in a raised bed with onion tops falling over into the garden.  These onions are growing in a raised bed vegetable garden in zone 3.
As you can see, the tops are beginning to naturally fall over.

If is helpful for curing onions to discontinue watering onions 2 weeks before you plan to harvest them. This allows the skins to begin drying and to thicken. If you end up getting rain, consider waiting a few days for the soil to dry out around the onions before harvesting them. When harvesting onions, try to brush clumps of dirt off the outside and roots of the onion. Be careful not to bang or bump the onions while removing soil, as this will cause bruising that can lead to rotting.

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How to Cure Onions for Storage

Select an area that is dry, not too warm, and has decent airflow to cure onions in. Cure onions out of direct sunlight. I have found the best way to cure onions to be hanging them upside-down until the tops are completely dry and brittle.

Cure onions upside-down until the tops are dry and brittle

Garden onions curing on an onion curing rack.
My husband built me this amazing onion curing/storing rack out of stucco wire.

The exception to curing unions upside-down until the tops have turned brown is when you wish to braid the onions. If you plan to store your onions in braids, allow them to cure upside-down or on a screen or shelf with good airflow for around 3 days, then brush soil off with a dry cloth, trim roots and braid the onion tops.

Braided garden onions from a zone 3 vegetable garden.
Braided onions

How to Store Onions

Once the tops of the onions have dried, trim off the onion tops and roots then brush off any soil with a dry cloth. If you notice any damaged onions or any beginning to soften, set those aside to use up first. Store onions in dry, cool area in a netted bag in an area where they have good airflow. The best temperature for storing onions is between 7 - 10 degrees Celsius (45 - 50F).

Store onions in a cool, dry area with good airflow

Another option for storing onions, one I LOVE, is to chop and freeze some of them. This makes for quick and easy use and is especially handy when you need just a few for a recipe. To do this, chop onions and freeze on a cookie sheet. Once they are fully frozen, place in Ziplock bags or vacuum seal. I prefer to use a vacuum sealer as they last much longer without getting freezer burnt that way. Here is a link to the vacuum sealer we use. I have had it for about 8 years and it is still going strong with no issues.

Onions chopped in a food processor and vacuum sealed in bags.
Onions chopped in a food processor and vacuum sealed for easy use.

Last year (2022) was the FIRST year that we finally grew enough onions to last our family of 5 right through the winter. We stored the onions hanging upside-down in our garage for the entire winter and spring. We found the red opinions lasted the longest for us.

If you haven't already checked it out, be sure to read these tips on growing onions, along with my best tips on how to grow larger onions!

The variety of onions you grow does make an impact on how well the onions will store. Search specifically for "storage" varieties if you hope to grow enough to keep throughout the year. Many large "sweet" onion varieties (such as the popular Walla Walla) do not store for very long. If you do notice any onions beginning to soften, that may be a great time to chop up remaining onions to freeze or dehydrate.

Onions curing on a blanket on a garage floor.
If you don't have a rack to hang onions on, a blanket can be used on the floor.

If you have found this article helpful and would like to see more gardening tips and tricks for gardening in Alberta and other zone three gardening climates, please subscribe to my blog (the bottom of the home page) and follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and/or YouTube!

How to cure and store onions to last all year.


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Jenn Leiker
Jenn Leiker
Sep 03, 2023

I'm a brand new gardener and just moved up to the Cold Lake area--your blog is so helpful! Can you recommend any posts or resources on what/when/how to harvest things just before the first frost? My garden is going shockingly well, but the forecast predicts 1-6c nights coming very soon, and I'm nervous about all my green tomatoes, potatoes still in the ground, cauliflower, watermelon, spaghetti squash, bell peppers, corn, etc. still out there and much of it seemingly not ready to pick! Do I run out and buy plastic to cover them temporarily at night (should be a few warmer nights/weeks ahead after this)? Do I panic and harvest everything now? I've read that my kale and cauliflowe…

Krista Green
Krista Green
Sep 06, 2023
Replying to

At this time I don't have a blog post specific to fall frost, but I do have one that talks about frost in general! I also have a blog post on how to ripen green tomatoes. Any of your root crops (potatoes, beets, carrots... ) are okay in the ground during frost. The tops may die back, but the vegetable will still be fine. In fact, carrots are sweeter after a frost! Hopefully this is helpful to you.

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