Appalachia Gardening

Storing Onions

stringing onions for storing

We never grow onions to store through the winter. We plant the type of onions that are best eaten as spring green onions. Most of them get eaten quickly once their green sword shaped leaves shoot above the fresh spring ground.

As the garden progresses from spring veggies to summer veggies a few onions always get forgotten under the foliage of the growing plants. I usually find them as I weed in the garden or pull up the rest of the spring planting of beets and radishes.

Since I don’t have many onions to worry about storing, I get The Deer Hunter to string them up on the front porch for me. I use the onions for cooking.

Stringing up the onions on the porch always makes me think of Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books were by far my favorite thing to read when I was a young girl. I remember wishing I could see the attic where Laura and Mary played between the rows of braided onions that hung down from the ceiling.



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 1, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    By the other way, onions is pernounced – /ung-yens/ – by half the folks whir I am frum. The rest of us don’t pronounce it at all ’cause we was taught not to speak with our mouths full.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 1, 2017 at 1:35 am

    Just poking around this morning….couldn’t sleep…so I thought I would ask a question! I noticed your iron triangles hanging on the same nail as the onions….I didn’t see the striker….Did the girls make those in the Blacksmith class at the John Campbell school? Love the agrestic look…with the rust and all…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    September 30, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I grow all of our onions. We live in a swamp so my husband built me an above ground cellar. He built it on the north side of the house and spray foamed it heavily. I keep onions garlic, and potatoes till April here in Michigan.
    Cabbages also. Love my cellar.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 30, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    b. Ruth’s comment led me to think about rotten onions and also rotten cabbage. Most times they rot from the outside in. If you take them outside and carefully peel away the rot a leaf or layer at a time, you reveal them at their best. I never throw onions away if there is any life at all left in them. The heart of a rotten cabbage is a beautiful thing. Blanched white and perfectly tender. The flavor of cabbage at it’s best. The cabbage taste without the bite. The smell is not transferred into the living part of the plant. Onions are the same.
    Sometimes I leave onions and cabbage in the ice box too long just for that reason. Remember when we pulled up cabbage and buried it upside down in the ground. It didn’t just sit there waiting, in perfect shape, for us to retrieve it. It started to rot. We pulled it up and peeled the rot away and there it was, a bit smaller but a much more flavorful head. Onions in the can house were the same. When they started to sprout, the outer layers would start to rot away, perhaps to supply nourishment for the new growth. The plant would send out long pale sprouts which had (and still have) a much more delicate taste.
    I’m not saying nothing against b.Ruth, it is just that her comment stirred something in my little pea brain.
    Thank you! Again!

  • Reply
    Harry Adams
    September 30, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I love onions, but could never grow any that would keep for a long time. I started going to the farmers market in Columbia when I would go to SC to visit and buy a 50# bag of Vidalia if in season or big sweet onions otherwise. These would usually keep for 6 months. I am out now and really miss my big onions.
    We love Little House and read all the books. We made a car trip around 1988 to Yellowstone and in passing through South Dakota found that one of the places Laura lived was in De Smet so we made a side trip. On our way home we saw that her last home was in Missouri with Alonzo so we made another side trip. Both were well worth the time. I am sure Laura Ingalls could not have imagined how well those stories would be reread.
    We have tried to interest the granddaughters in it, but to no avail. Not enough violence or sexual innuendo for them even at their young age I guess.
    The show still comes on, on Inspiration Channel as does the Waltons.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    I enjoyed Little House on the Prairie Books as well as the TV series. I often imagined my not so distant ancestors in many of those scenarios as well as “recognizing” some of the stories as being similar to family stories. One set of great-great-grandparents set up housekeeping in a dugout on the Kansas prairie; a grandmother was a bit of a tom-boy and broke her back when she fell out of a tree – never did heal right – she looked like she had a bad case of scoliosis but still had 8 children; lots of pond stories from skinny dipping to my Dad and uncle ‘driving’ their uncle’s model A into the pond then “learnin’ mechanics” by figuring out how to not only get it out of the pond but make it run again . . . .
    About those onions – yours look mighty fine. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas near the experiment station in Weslaco where the sweet 1015 onions were developed. The experiment station really was located on FM 1015 and the onions were actually ready to pick around Oct. 15th in those parts. Dad grew lots of onions and we gleaned the fields after picking. I remember a few being braided and hung in the tractor shed but most were stored in old hose after the hose got too many runners in them. (Mom always kept a bag of old hose stored in the closet.) We dropped one into the toe, tied a knot, dropped in the next one, tied another knot, and so one until the hosiery wouldn’t hold any more. This method worked just dandy, spacing the onions apart for air flow, as long as we didn’t get much rain. If it was too humid the onions would start to rot and we would cut out the mushy ones but leave enough hose to support the remaining onions. Usually, if it looked like it was going to be a rainy spell, we would bring as many as we could of the lines of onions into the house. Even before air conditioning, the house would be a bit less humid than the shed.
    hmmm – you really set me to rambling and my brain to meandering with this post. Thanks for the memories.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    I use a lot of onions in cooking. All mine come from the grocery store anymore and I buy those 3 pound bags. Once in awhile, I buy those little fresh onions with blades still on, cause I like to cut ’em up, blades and all, and have them with pinto beans and cornbread.
    Your onions look nice hanging there on your porch. I use to tie them up like that before I got back trouble, but now I just buy a pouch and stick ’em in the bottom of the frig. They keep pretty well for me. …Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 30, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I had been seeing all these beautiful strings of peppers hanging in the home magazines, paper flyers, etc. Sooo, come that next Spring I planted more cayenne peppers than we could ever use in the pickled okra, beans and hot pickles…Toward the end of the growing season, just as they were pretty orange, red and dark red, I picked a tub full. I got a needle and fishin’ twine and theaded those little beauties up on long strings…bunching some lapped over to look like the pictures I saw….I hung them on a nail on the sunny side of the kitchen on the wall….They were beautiful….for a week or so. Then they began to dry, fading a little bit every week…After they dried, I used maybe one or two crumbled in chili…I was tempted to buy red spray paint and freshen them up. HA…
    I got pretty tired of looking at those faded brown dried up peppers and by early the next Spring they went in the compost! Ha…I managed by then to find a string of those fake plastic red peppers to hang In there place….finally tired of those in a year….went in the yard sale!
    I did braid some Texas onions one year…but we ate them so fast that it was hardly worth the time it takes to braid them out….They sure look pretty though…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS Your onions are pretty…good you spaced them since they still had green….
    Phew-ee…I was checking my supply bag of onions before going to the store this week…Yep, right down in the bottom one was beginning to rot in the center…about made me sick….nothing smells worse than cairn as a rotting onion or tater!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 30, 2017 at 10:27 am

    We was big onion eaters up on Wiggins Creek. Daddy grew them to keep all winter. We only ate them as green onions when they were planted too close together or were barrel onions. Barrel onions are the ones with the big seed stalk in the middle. They were good to eat fresh if you caught them in time before they got tough. They grew into a normal sized onion but they wouldn’t keep.
    We didn’t pull our onions til the tops fell over. We left them in the field for a couple of days to cure before we stored the them. We always shook off all the dirt and cut off the tops to three or four inches before we stored them.
    Daddy built shallow wooden trays that allowed good air circulation to store the onions in til freezing weather came then they went into a can house he had built back into the hillside. It it stayed cool in there year runaround and was dark. Onions and taters kept well in there. It was like a grocery store stocked with canned goods and produce.
    Mommy grew multiplier onions in her garden that we sometimes ate as green onions too. She saved them from year to year. They divided instead on growing one big bulb. The bulb part was red and sometimes odd shaped but you didn’t even notice that once you got it in your mouth. Come to think of it they could have been shallots.
    Daddy was something of a gourmet. He also grew chives and garlic which are close kin to onions.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2017 at 10:06 am

    I loved the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My third grade teacher read a little bit of “Little House in the Big Woods” to the class every day until it was finished, which started my interest in the series. My daughters loved the books, too.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 30, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Ours don’t last either. Once the tops died down this summer I dug the Texas Sweets and the Georgia Sweets, put them in a net bag and left them on the porch. We ate them before long though.
    For years I had been fussing about not being able to plant onions in the fall because I couldn’t get sets. Well this year White Co. Farmers Exchange had them. So I planted fall onions. The bundle says 40 but if I planted every little green hair there is usually close to 80.
    At one time I had the ‘walking onions’ but they faded away.

  • Reply
    Roger Jeffrey
    September 30, 2017 at 8:43 am

    I remember while growing up in West Virginia after we had a good crop in the garden that it was canning time again. We would work morning to night doing all that was needed to get everything ready such as cleaning jars. breaking beans, peeling apples etc. We would have food stored everywhere there was enough space. It was a lot of work but it sure tasted good when winter came.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    September 30, 2017 at 8:12 am

    I like that picture of your hanging onions! Oh, Tipper, I also loved the “Little House” series of books.
    Your blog gives me much the same pleasure as an adult that those books gave me as a child. You make Appalachia sound just as wonderful as did the lives of the Ingalls family.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 30, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Tip, I don’t cook so much anymore but when I do I use lots of onions. Sometimes when chopping onion I think about my grandmother’s dried onions. How in the world did she dry enough onions for a winter’s full of cooking for a family? You know the life she lived was not easy. They didn’t run to the store every other day to pick up something to cook for supper. Everything the cooked came from the farm except spices and such that came from the Jewel Tea man on his occasional trips through the valley. I can’t really imagine that life!
    Your onions are beautiful hanging on the porch!

  • Leave a Reply