The Q&A Archives: Clipping Onions

Question: When do I cut the stem off of the onions so that they grow bigger and not stay the size of scallions? How often is this done?

Answer: Onion tops turn yellow and fall over when the growing process is complete. Bending the tops over too early will only expedite the process and decrease bulb size, so wait until they begin to turn yellow, then bend them over. This redirects the energy from growing new tops to increasing bulb size. When the tops are completely yellow, pull the onions out of the ground and let them dry in the sun for two days. Lay the tops of one row of bulbs over the bulbs of another to prevent sunscald.

When onions are dry, clip roots and cut back tops to one inch or braid uncut tops together and hang onions in an airy spot. The best way to store onions is in a mesh bag, or nylon stockings. Place an onion in the bag and tie a knot or put a plastic tie between the onions and continue the process until the netting is full. Loop the netting over a rafter or nail in a cool, dry location and when an onion is desired, simply clip off the bottom onion with a pair of scissors or remove the plastic tie. Another suggestion is to spread the onions out on a screen to allow adequate ventilation, but remember to keep them from touching each other. As a general rule, the sweeter the onion, the higher the water content, and therefore the shorter the shelf life. A more pungent onion will store longer, so eat the sweet varieties first and save the more pungent onions for storage. Every few weeks, the onions should be sorted to throw out the bad onions since they will accelerate the decaying process with all the onions with which they come in contact.

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