*This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting this site.*
Growing onions from bulbs is easy for a novice (or expert) gardener to do. I regularly plant upwards of 600 a year myself. Rarely, if ever, does a bulb decide not to grow into a large, juicy onion.
So what’s a gardener to do when an excited day in the spring garden leads to a bumper crop of onions in the fall? I’ve got a few ideas for you…
Enjoy Your Onions Fresh
Sometimes it’s easy when the harvest hits to go into preservation mode and forget to enjoy your harvest fresh. I have done this with many different crops on many different occasions. It’s best to have a plan for your produce ahead of time if you fall into this category.
Make a list of all the ways you enjoy eating onions fresh and keep the list handy. (I like to tape favorite recipes inside my kitchen cabinet doors so I see them every time I open a cabinet.)
Need some ideas?
Cure Your Onions Properly For Preservation
Those onions that aren’t eaten soon after harvest will need to be properly stored so they don’t spoil.
Don’t store onions that are bruised or broken, and my opinion (not popular, I know) is that it’s best not to bend over the tops. Bending can lead to tears, which can lead to the introduction of bacteria or disease. You don’t need that.
Cure your onions on their sides in a warm place for a couple weeks–like a garage or shed. Then store them in a cold, dry place, close to 32 degrees F. Don’t store them where it’s humid.
If you want to keep your onions in their natural state for preservation, you’ll probably want to keep them in your pantry or root cellar. Check out Building A Root Cellar for more information on that (as well as information on actually building a root cellar).
Personally, I like to braid mine before storing them. To learn how to braid onions, check out my super simple tutorial for how to braid your own.
Freeze Your Onions
Yes, you can freeze onions. I like to blanch them for 3-7 minutes (until the center is heated), and then after they’ve cooled, store them in a freezer bag or freezer jar.
Just remember that when you do, they will be very soft when they thaw, so they’ll be best for soups and casseroles.
Dehydrate Onions For Versatility
After I braid a few strings of onions, I dehydrate most of what’s left. To me, this is the best preservation method for a large crop of onions. It takes me a few days, but it’s worth it in the end as I really like to cook with the dried version.
Dehydrate onions are perfect in soups, stews, and casseroles.
They are especially helpful when young children are helping me prepare meals. Small hands have a much easier time pulling out and measuring dried onions than they do helping to peel and cut them. (See also: Kids’ First Homestead Recipes for more ideas on getting your kids cooking in the kitchen from a young age.)
Fill Your Spice Rack
Once I learned I could make my own spices very easily, I was amazed when I calculated how much I wasn’t spending on seasoning. Onions in particular are very often used in our house to make seasoning salt, ranch dressing, onion soup mix, onion powder, and onion salt.
My favorite recipe for onion soup mix (equivalent to about one store-bought packet) is:
1/4 Cup dried onion
2 Tablespoons beef bullion granules
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Can Onions For Cooking Later
Probably one of the most popular preservation methods is known as canning.
Making up a large batch of soup, pasta sauce, salsa, chili, stewed tomatoes, or onion soup and then canning it for later use will fill your winter with delicious homegrown ingredients when there’s snow on the ground and no garden in sight.
My preferred pasta sauce and stewed tomatoes are found in this Complete Canning Guide. I may be making some onion soup to can here soon. If I do, I’ll make sure to share the link with you.
Pickle Onions For An Unusual Treat
Ever tried pickling onions? They are actually pretty good in moderation on sandwiches.
Not familiar with this healthy alternative? Be sure to check out my video to see how easy it is to ferment your own foods. Seriously. Super easy.
Don’t get intimidated by all the fermentation equipment you’ve seen around. All you need to get started is this kit. This is the kit I show you how to use in the video–that takes, like, 10 seconds. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be fermenting everything, and then you’ll want a three pack of fermenters.
Fermented onions are good on tacos, wraps, potato salad, brats, burgers (especially elk burgers), in chili, or a plethora of other places. Once you’ve had them a couple times, you’ll get the taste of them and want them on just about everything.
Get Rid Of Your Onions
One of the funnest parts of gardening is sharing the haul–whatever that looks like for you.
Take a box to work or church with a big “free” label on them, and they are sure to find new homes. Have too many to get rid of at work? Call your local food bank and offer to drop some off.
Dropping off fresh foods at a food bank is trickier than dropping off canned items. In my experience, food banks often request that certain amounts be dropped off at scheduled times. They don’t want perishables to sit around, and they’ll want to find homes for your produce before you show up. Make sure you call ahead, or you may get turned away.
Also be prepared in the case your local food bank is unable to accept any food that isn’t USDA inspected.
Have so many onions that you’ve eaten your fill, stocked your pantry, your neighbors’ pantries, and still have onions left? Maybe you could try to sell some. I’ve got some tips for that here.
Save Your Onions Seeds
If you let a few of your best onions go to seed, you’ll be able to collect tiny black seeds from their flowers.
While it can be tempting to collect the first seeds that mature, I’d advise you to collect seeds from those onions who bolt (go to seed) last. Remember that you’re passing on genes when you choose your seeds. If you collect seeds from onions that bolt first, you’ll be planting onions that you’ve selected to have genes that will probably bolt quickly when you plant them.
Grow Onions Next Year
All those seeds you’ve collected? Make sure to test a few inside over the winter, and if they sprout, you’re all set to grow onions next year.
Don’t forget to share your seeds with your friends.
Need more ideas? Check out my Onion Board on Pinterest to see what I’m looking at.
What else are you doing with your bumper crop of onions? Tell me in the comments below.