Backtracking to Basics

Onion Bulb Selection and Storage

Common yellow, white, or red mature onion bulb SELECTION:

onion bulb selection and storage

If you enjoy messiness and waste, sure, go ahead and select the soft, partially-peeled, lop-sided, open-necked bulbs (with a sprinkling of black powdery substance for good measure)!

Otherwise, check…

Is the peel crisp, dry, thin, bright, shiny?
Is the bulb clean, tightly-closed, un-sprouted, well-shaped, firm?

  •     Dark powdery patches beneath the skin indicate mold.
  •     Open-necked bulbs tend toward thick and woody centers.
  •     Sprouted stems indicate agedness.

Common yellow, white, or red mature onion bulb STORAGE:

onion bulb selection and storage

If you enjoy messiness and waste, sure, go ahead and store them is a plastic bag in your refrigerator (particularly without opting for the low humidity setting)!


Since onions so easily absorb moisture, and since moisture facilitates spoilage, when possible, find a cool, airy, dry area – well away from moist vegetables such as potatoes. Speaking of “away from”, also store them away from direct light.

  • Opt for drier than, say, in a bin beneath the sink.
  • Opt for cool or room temperature. (preferable not intense indoor heat)
  •    (consistency in temperature counts for much)
  • Opt for circulation between bulbs to the degree possible.
  •    (definitely not in a plastic bag)
  • Note: Potato moisture gets absorbed by onions in proximity.
  •     (& potatoes produce ethylene gas that promotes onion spoilage)
  • Note: Light turns onions bitter and causes the roots to grow.

If you live on a farm surrounded by gardens, and in a farmhouse with a ventilated pantry by the kitchen and a root cellar, too…  The rest of us will simply be tantalized by the option!

No matter where you live, or how carefully you select and store your onions, INSPECT THEM REGULARLY. If any seem to be faring questionably, of course use those first.

By the way...  If you drop an onion, by mistake, use that onion first, on purpose… due to potential bruising leading to early decay.

And, note...  The same sulfurous compounds that draw tears, also inhibit rot... so the more pungent the onion the longer it will store.

Sweet onions, due to their high water and sugar content, cannot be expected to store as long as common varieties. Ideally, sweet onions should be stored in a cool, dark, dry location and separated for optimum air circulation. One might, for example, place sweet onions in a clean pair of pantyhose (knots tied between each onion), hung in a cool, dry place..and simply snip below each knot each time one is wanted.

Now a bit about green onions, harvested when the bulbs are immature and the stalks are green. Look for freshness in the stalks. Tiny bulbs are very sweet; slightly more developed bulbs will taste more pungent. Green onions must be refrigerated if not used upon harvest or purchase. Possibly the best choice is in a perforated (or open) plastic bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.

Yes, most of you already knew most of these tips.  Just checking!
What about this one? (A fun read... and photos, photos, photos!)


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