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The onion is an extremely versatile vegetable and it's hard to imagine most kitchens without it. This spicy tuber is one of the oldest and best-known cultivated plants in the world and gives many dishes the necessary spice. Its cultivation is unproblematic even for garden novices. Getting the timing right is key when picking onions. You should neither harvest them too early nor too late, both of which would affect their quality and shelf life.

Best harvest time

When is the right time for the onion harvest or when the onions are ripe depends on the respective variety, when it is sown or planted and on the prevailing weather. However, the main harvest time for most varieties is in autumn. It is often recommended to fold over the tubular foliage in summer to speed up ripening.

But that's exactly what you should refrain from, because that would result in a kind of distress. This means that the tubers are less storable, sprout prematurely or rot from the inside. In addition, the whole thing could reduce the yield significantly. Accelerating the ripening process only makes sense if the weather conditions are consistently so bad that if the bulbs are left in the ground any longer, there is a risk that they will rot before they are ripe.

To prevent this, you can carefully lift them up with a digging fork, tearing off the fine roots so that the onion bulbs are no longer fully anchored in the ground. They are no longer able to absorb water and stop growing. From now on they draw all the nutrients from the leek and store them in the onion. The leek begins to dry up.

If possible, you should avoid it. It is better to wait to harvest onions until the foliage yellows on its own and eventually withers. In dry and sunny weather, this usually happens all by itself. In principle, it is advantageous to let these vegetables mature in the ground for as long as possible, provided the weather cooperates. When the leaves are completely withered, it's harvest time and the onions are ripe.


Harvest onions

A warm and dry soil at the time of the onion harvest is conducive to the ripening process and the storability of the onion. For this reason, you should stop watering the onion beds a few weeks before harvest, as this will cause the leeks to wither.

  • If possible, wait for a period of fine weather before harvesting the tubers
  • warm and dry weather, best conditions to get the vegetables out of the ground
  • ideally it shouldn't have rained a few days before
  • the day of the harvest should also be dry and as sunny as possible
  • damp weather or moist soil can increase risk of rot
  • Use a fork to loosen the soil around the onions
  • then pull out the leek
  • remove the loose soil and scrape loose parts of the shell with your hands

Tip: To ensure a long shelf life and to avoid rotting, it is essential to spread the leeks out on the bed after the onion harvest to ripen and leave them there for a while.


Post-ripening is an important part of the onion harvest. In this way, the vegetable onions can develop a skin that is as firm as possible, which they need for longer storage. It takes about 6-10 days depending on environmental conditions. You can leave them on the dry ground or, if the weather is unfavorable, store them temporarily in flat boxes or on wooden gratings in a rain-protected place. A shady spot is ideal for this. After that, loose skins and root remains can be removed and the onions can be stored for the next few weeks.

Tip: Onion bulbs should not be left in the blazing sun, as they would dry out too quickly, which in turn would cause the outer skin to burst open.


Make tubers storable

Only intact onion bulbs are suitable for storage. Those damaged with the digging fork or otherwise should be discarded for use as soon as possible, they are not suitable for long-term storage. There are different ways of preserving or storing healthy leeks.

  • Tie the onions to the dry leaves in loose bundles made up of several specimens
  • or braided into the extremely decorative onion braids that are typical in many places
  • air-permeable jute bags, onion nets or boxes are also suitable for storage
  • in baskets or fruit boxes, lay the tubers flat next to each other
  • In no case lay tubers on top of each other in several layers
  • this could lead to rot formation
  • Plastic bags are completely unsuitable for storage
  • cool, dark and dry rooms are suitable for storage
  • Good ventilation of the fruit is important
  • darkness is also an important factor
  • if too much light reaches the onion bulbs, premature budding occurs
  • the same happens when the humidity is too high
  • the long green shoots extract the aroma from the tubers

Mature onions tolerate short-term temperatures of up to minus 8 degrees. They usually don't harm them, and frozen onions don't need to be thrown away right away. However, you shouldn't touch them, because then pressure points would appear right there, which rot after thawing. One should simply wait until the forest is out of the nodules again. For immediate consumption, however, you can use them without any problems. To avoid this, a permanently frost-free area is recommended.

The stored goods should be checked from time to time and both tubers that have sprouted and those with rotten spots should be sorted out. If you don't do this, the rot will spread to other onions. Once you have found the optimal storage place, you should keep it for the entire duration of the storage if possible. Onions do not like being moved or rearranged frequently during storage. Under optimal conditions, the leek can be kept for several months without any problems.

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