13 February 2014

Storing Onions for the Long Term

I don't grow all our onions, there simply isn't enough garden space. I do however buy onions in 10 kilo bags when they are cheap, my top price is 40 cents a kilo, although I can usually get them for 35 cents a kilo.

This means that there are a lot of onions to be stored. Some are grated, diced or sliced and then frozen or dehydrated. But I like to keep some of them to use fresh. Which creates a bit of a dilemma because onions don't keep terribly well just in the pantry.

They tend to sprout or go soft, even mouldy. Yuk!

You could spend $30+ on a plastic container to store your onions, or $2 for 100 paper bags that can be re-used over and over, or re-purpose some paper bags you already have for nothing.

For long term pantry storage, that doesn't require buying a special container or bag, I use this simple method. It's so simple you'll wonder that it really works. It does. And it keeps onions (and garlic and shallots) fresh for months, right in my kitchen pantry.

You will need:
Brown paper lunch bags - the number depends on the number of onions you are going to store
Pegs or paper clips to keep the bags closed
A hole punch

Step 1. Punch the bags. You can do this any way you wish, even randomly all about the upper half of the bags. An easy was is to fold the bag a few times and then punch in a row, spacing the punches 2cm or so apart. It doesn't have to be perfect or in a particular pattern, just punch holes for ventilation. The result is multiple rows of holes in the upper half of the bag.

Step 2. Fill the bag up to half full, just below or at the first row of holes.  Fold the top over 2cm, label it and use the pegs or paper clips to hold the top down.

I store my bags, full of onions, in a box on the pantry floor.  It's important not to crowd them. Air needs to circulate around the bags, that's the whole point of punching the holes. I use a wooden box;  it helps to keep the bags upright and is roomy enough for air circulation between the bags. They could be stored in a cupboard in a wire basket or in a cardboard box on a pantry shelf.

This method of storing your onions, garlic and shallots should extend the shelf life of your produce without any chemical intervention (or expensive plastic boxes). Just remember it will all depend on their condition when you put them in the bag, temperature, humidity and light. Try to store fresh, blemish free onions for the best results.

Onions like a cool (not cold - keep them out of the fridge), dark, dry storage area. I keep them in my pantry but any space you have that meets the criteria will do.

If you think this method won't work for you, remember: no plastic bags. Don't ever store onions in plastic bags. That will accelerate sprouting and spoiling because of the lack of air circulation.

And for some reason they really don't like potatoes. Don't store onions and potatoes together. They don't get on and give off gases that just make them both go off faster.

If you are careful when you take the onions out of the bags they can be reused over and over. Make sure they are clean and dry, shake out any litter and they're good to go again.

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