Bulbing alliums, Onions and garlic, can be harvested as soon as they are big enough to eat. The whole plant is edible so they are a real treat pulled young and eaten fresh; bulbs, greens, flower buds the lot. However if you want to store onions or garlic you need to wait for the right moment. Stored well they will last right through autumn & winter until the next harvest in spring.
Bulbing alliums have a lovely habit of telling you when its time for them to be lifted, the tops start to turn yellow and bend over. Just make sure they are not turning yellow due to lack of water and you are on to a sure thing. In my garden, main crop onions planted as sets in late winter – early spring will be ready to lift in late summer. The onions start to show signs of drying in the summer months, the tops naturally start to bend over once this starts to happen bend over all the tops and stop watering. Some gardeners say you should not bend over the tops as this can damage the onion neck but I have not found that to be the case. I gently push the leaves over letting the onion bend at the natural point. Turning the necks down will prevent the onions bolting and let the plant concentrate on bulb rather than seed growth. Leave the bulbs in the ground until the tops are brown or nearly all brown, in high summer that takes about 2 weeks.
- Drying or Curing
After a couple of weeks lift the bulbs carefully, brush off the soil, and spread out on dry soil or on racks or anywhere handy to dry out for another couple of weeks, undercover if the weather is wet. This is to dry or cure the bulbs ready for storage.
Preparing for Storing
Once the onions are dried for storage, a good onion for storage should have a dense firm bulb and the neck dried back all the way to the bub, with a dry outer paper. Check over all the bulbs; separate any that still have a thick neck, or are a bit soft as these won’t store very well or any that show signs of disease and use them in the kitchen. Rub off any loose papery skin and any remaining dirt
Onions can be stored in sacks, baskets or boxes so long as there is ventillation around them. They can also be strung to hang in bunches, which is my preferred option. I find stringing them easier to store as they can be hung from the rafters or wall hooks and don’t take up any space. I also love looking at them given the choice between an Object D’Art or a string of onions on the wall I’d take the onions any day. I plait the onions together in groups of about 7-9 to make a useful bunch, one plait can be brought into the kitchen at a time. Store in a dry, frost free place with plenty of ventilation. A kitchen is normally too warm and humid so find somewhere cooler.