How and When to Harvest Onions



Onion is rightly one of the most popular veggies in the world! It is an essential part of a splendid variety of recipes like soup, fritters, or even basic dishes like a salad. Onions have been in culinary use for a long time. Red Onions, Yellow Onions, Scallions, Leeks, Pearl Onions, and Shallots have made their way to almost every kitchen down the globe.

Onions are cool-season vegetables that can be grown and managed well. When they are properly harvested and stored, a kitchen staple is available for almost the entire year. We can harvest Onions at any stage for different consumption purposes.

Like any other crop, the two issues while harvesting onions is time and technique. So, let us explore more about the harvesting of onions.


When to Harvest Onions
When to Harvest Onions

Once the crop shows the signs of maturity, we are ready to go! 

Now let us talk in detail about the signs of maturity and the way to check them.


There are a lot of indicators that show that the onions are ready to be harvested. One needs to see the signs and decide the harvesting time on the basis of the type of onion required- green onion or matured bulbs.

– Scallions (Green Onions)

Onions are ready to be harvested as soon as their green tops emerge out of the ground. If you require green onions, then get the crop out once the green tops attain 6 inches (15 cm) of height. 

The longer you wait to harvest the green tops, the stronger they become, so better to do harvesting at this stage for having scallions. Spring onions take about just 20 to 30 days to get ready for harvesting.

-Mature Onions

Those who want to have mature onions, should wait for three months after sowing and then look for the visible changes in growth and the green tops. The harvesting time for Standard dry bulb onions can be from 100 to 175 days depending upon type, weather, and soil.

Generally, the crop is ready to be harvested when the leaves lose their colour turning brown, and leaves weaken at the top of the bulb and flop over.  Work of leaves is over so, the energy transfers to the bulb for attaining maturity.


There are various ways of checking the maturity of the onions. The most common methods are to check the size, fallen tops, and soft spots to ensure that the onion is fully mature.

Size of Bulb

Pull up an onion once the changes in tops and leaves are evident to get an idea about the size of onion bulbs. Check the diameter of the bulb. It should be between three to five inches depending on the variety. 

If the bulb doesn’t meet the expectations in terms of size, then one or two more samples could be pulled out from the ground and checked. Still, if the bulbs are not large enough, Leave the rest of the crop in the ground to ripen.

On the other hand, if the pulled one meets the required size, check the rest of the crop for other signs.

Soft Spots 

Look for a soft spot on the top by gently pressing the plant about two to three inches above the bulb. It shows that the bulb has finished growing. Also, showing that the bulb has attained maturity.

All those onions having such a soft spot should be harvested and leave others to mature.

Fallen Tops

Around 80 to 90% of the tops should be allowed to fall over the rest of the tops. 

Once these tops are down, leave the crop for another 10 to 14 days in the ground, making the crop attain the stage of complete maturity. Otherwise, for immediate use, we can harvest crops at this stage too.

Very rarely, stalks can fall over due to wind damage, so check for a combination of signs of ripening before harvesting. 

Remember not to leave the crop for more than two weeks once the top falls.  The crop can easily succumb to microbial attacks that may lead to rotting once stored, or regrowth may start; the mature onions will begin to multiply – forming sections, like a garlic clove. Those sections can then be separated and later be planted as sets each spring.


When to harvest onions- It is better to harvest the crop on a sunny day to store the onions for a longer time. The best time for harvesting would be early morning when the temperature is not much hot.

Keep a check on the weather forecasts. If heavy rain is forecasted, then harvest the crop before two weeks waiting period after the tops fell since the excessive moisture from downpour can cause severe damage to the crop.

Mature onions may spoil in the cool temperature, so it is advisable to harvest them before the first frost. If we sow onions in the spring, they should be ready in the summer.


Harvesting onions is an easy task. We should try to keep the onions as undamaged and blemish-free as possible. We can store healthy onions for longer durations.

Now let us talk in detail about how we can get our perfect onions!

Pulling out the bulbs

Loose the soil around the bulb before pulling it up. Use a spade or maybe a garden fork to dig a circle of 1 inch (2.5 cm) around the bulb. Try to make a hole under the bulb as well to get out the roots.

Firmly grab the base of the green leaves. Pull them up to get the bulb out from the ground. Then, shake them gently to remove the excess dirt.

It is advisable not to cut the crop with a spade since it may rot. The tops should be left attached too. Also, pulling too hard through hands without digging holes could be damaging for the yield.

Drying the Onions

Now, it’s time to leave the harvested onions to stay outdoors for drying in the sun. It may take a day or two. Don’t put the onions out in the sky if it is rainy.

Also, remember not to pile up the freshly harvested crop. Onions should be put side by side and not be allowed to toss over.

Keep all damaged(blemished) onions aside for quicker usage since they won’t last long.

Curing Process

Onions are a type of crop that can be stored for a longer duration. To make sure that they last longer, Curing is an essential step.

It involves removing moisture by drying the outer three to four layers of the onions. The stem is also dried to seal that access point off and protect the onions’ insides. Hence, helping to store onions for longer durations.

Perfect Location to Cure Onions

Curing is a longer drying process away from the sun. Thus, Onions should be kept in a warm, shaded, and ventilated place, such as a porch or a shaded terrace.

If the air would be dry, then less time is needed for the process. A location whose temperature is from 32 to 40 F. (0-4 C.) is best for this process.

Along with this, we need humidity levels between 65 and 70 percent for the best results. If the location is too damp, the crop may rot.

Tips for a Perfect Curing Process

If no suggested place is available, then onions could be kept in an open area covered with a thin cotton sheet to keep them away from the sunlight. 

Such a sheet allows a lot of air circulation when held in place by stones along the edge, protecting the bulbs from the sun’s direct heat. 

Heavy coverings like canvas or plastic trap are not advisable as they trap moisture inside, so the onions will not get dried out evenly.

Remember to keep a few spaces between the bulbs. Rotate the bulbs every day for better drying. 

To cure the onions well, you will you will presumably require two or three weeks. Take your time as there is no need to get the onions in the storage quickly. It is better to keep the onions for curing for a longer time.

Storing Onions Properly

Once the onions are dry, their roots become wiry, with the outer skin becoming paper-thin. The outer layer of a dry-bulb starts rattling. Now we should check for any left soft spots in the onions.

It is unnecessary to cut off the tops before curing but if it is done, then one inch of the leaves should be left otherwise, the neck would not dry out, and the bulb could rot in storage.

Once the onions are dried, these can be stored in braids if the leaves weren’t trimmed earlier at some airy place for the further drying process.

If the leaves are trimmed, then the bulbs could be put in a mesh and then hanged at a warm, shady, and airy place free of humidity before moving to deeper storages.

A mesh bag or nylon stocking will prevent the onions from bruising and forming moulds.


It is not possible for every plant to give a perfect onion. Some of them might grow long stalks or may develop flowers known as bolting. 

It is not possible to store bolted onions properly. Their taste also gets altered. Such plants should be pulled and used straightaway. However, we can use the seeds from these flowers to grow crops later.

Raw uncut onion can survive up to 4- 6 weeks at room temperature and in the refrigerator for about 1- 2 months once it is cured properly.

Consume a sweet onion before the pungent ones since they have a shorter storage span. 

Most of the onions could be easily kept up to 3 months when harvested and stored properly. So, never underestimate the power of a proper harvesting process.

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