Onions are the most indispensable and versatile ingredient in the kitchen. That’s why they are always bought in bulk. But since onions are highly perishable, they require special storage techniques that few people are aware of. Continue reading to learn important tips on how to store onions for a long time.
How to Store Onions at Different Processing Stages
The National Onion Association (NOA) recommends storing your onions in a place where the temperature range is between 40-50°F. At this temperature, your onions can remain fresh and useful for a long time. But how do you store onions at different processing stages?
· Whole Onions
According to NOA, onions absorb moisture very easily. And therefore if the temperature in your house is humid, your onions will soon start to rot or bud. So, you should always store your whole onions in a cool, dry, dark, and properly ventilated place like the pantry, basement, garage, or cellar.
· Peeled Onions
If your onions are peeled, you should store them in the fridge to prevent bacterial contamination. You should also put them in an airtight container and set your fridge to 40°F (4°C) or below. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), peeled onions can only last a maximum of 14 days in the fridge. After that, they will start to rot.
· Sliced or Chopped Onions
The USDA advises that chopped or sliced onions should only be kept in the fridge for up to ten days. Therefore, if you are buying sliced or chopped onions, make sure they are properly refrigerated and used before they expire. You should also make sure they are wrapped tightly in plastic wraps or stored in a bag that can be resealed.
But if you want your sliced or chopped onions to last longer, you can store them in the freezer. This storage method prolongs their shelf life to about 3-6 months. Such onions should be used in cooked dishes like soups, casseroles, and stews.
· Cooked Onions
You can store your cooked onions in the fridge for up to 5 days. But you have to put them in an airtight container or a bag that can be resealed a few hours after cooking them. If you leave them open for a long time, they will harbor bacteria, which will reduce their shelf life.
But if you want them to last longer, you can store them in the freezer. Under normal circumstances, cooked onions can stay in the freezer for up to 3 months.
· Pickled Onions
Pickled onions have proved to have an extended shelf life. Studies have revealed that pickled onions can last up to 6 months. This process involves placing your onions in a solution that prevents the growth of bacteria that normally spoil vegetables.
To pickle your onions, you need to peel them first and then place them in a container filled with a mixture of vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices. Make sure these spices suit your taste. Seal the container and store it in the fridge.
How to Store Different Kinds of Onions
1. Dry Bulb Onions
Bulb onions usually have white bulb bottoms that are rounded and thick. They also have thick green stems that are firmly attached to the bottoms. Bulb onions should be cured before storage, otherwise, they will mold and rot. You should also avoid storing them near other food items like vegetables and fruits because they will absorb the onion flavor. Put them in a long mesh storage bag.
2. Green Onions
Green onions have a white base that has not developed fully into a bulb or long, straight, bright-green leaves. To store your green onions safely, start by removing their roots and then cut them in half. Dry them off and wrap them in a paper towel. Put them in a resealable plastic bag and store them in the fridge.
3. Yellow Onions
Yellow onions are the most common type of onions in the market. They are normally harvested in the fall. According to NOA, yellow onions should be stored in a cool, dry, dark, and ventilated room. Since yellow onions need to breathe, you shouldn’t put them in a plastic bag or container.
4. Red Onions
Start by curing your red onions with direct sunlight to the point where their roots and stems are completely brown and dry. Trim their ends and store them in a cool, dry, dark, and ventilated place. When stored this way, your red onions can last up to six months.
Things Not to Do When Storing Onions
• Don’t drop onions. You should always handle your onions carefully and make sure they do not drop on a hard surface because it will cause bruising and internal decay.
• Don’t store onions near walls. Whether your onions are bagged or boxed, they should not be stored near walls or pallets to allow them to breathe freely.
• Don’t store onions with other farm produce. Avoid storing your onions with potatoes, fruits, vegetables, or any other farm produce because they will release moisture into your onions and cause decay. These food items will also absorb the onion flavor.
• Don’t expose onions to direct sunlight. Once you’ve completely cured your onions with the sun, you should not continue exposing them to direct sunlight or heat because it will dry them out completely.
• Don’t put whole onions in plastic bags. You should never store whole onions in plastic bags because it will stop air movement and reduce their storage life. Only chopped or sliced onions should be stored in sealed plastic bags.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do you need to wash onions before storage?
Washing onions after harvesting or before storage is not necessary because it encourages rotting. You can just peel off the dry leaves and top layers of the onions to make their storage less messy.
2. Should onions be refrigerated?
You should never store your whole onions in the fridge because they will be chilled by the cold temperatures in your fridge. When chilled, onions become soft and soggy much faster. However, peeled, pickled, cooked, and chopped onions should be put in an airtight container and stored in the fridge for longer storage life.
3. How long do onions last?
Peeled onions can last in the fridge for 10–14 days, while sliced or chopped onions can stay in the fridge for 7–10 days. To prolong their storage life, freeze them in a resealable bag or airtight container. Cooked onions can last for 3-5 days in your fridge or up to 3 months in your freezer. Whole onions can last for up to 6 months in a cool, dry, dark, and ventilated place.
4. How to tell onions have gone bad?
Spoiled onions have dark sports that will eventually grow mold. You should also avoid onions that have started to sprout because it shows that they’ve started to go bad. Spoiled onions are also soft and mushy.
With these tips on how to store onions, you should be able to extend the storage life of your onions so that you don’t have to keep going back to the market every three days for a fresh bunch of onions.