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How to store sweet onions. August 10, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I love sweet onions, especially the mild, delicious Vidalias. (We don’t get Walla Walla and Texas 1015 Supersweet here in our part of scenic PA, so when Vidalias go out of season, I end up buying generic “sweet onions.”) After years of sobbing through my contact lenses while cutting sulfurous onions, discovering sweet onions was practically life-altering. I no longer wear contact lenses (thank you, laser surgery), but sweet onions are still the only ones I’ll cook with.

So, what’s the best way to store them? You can, of course, buy just one or two at a time, but I use one or two a day, so I like to buy them by the bag. With all their healthful properties, my motto is “an onion a day keeps the doctor away!” (And unlike pungent onions, if you eat sweet onions, you won’t keep everyone else away.) What would cooking be without that luscious onion flavor in omelets and home fries, soups and stews, spaghetti sauce and pizza, refried beans and fajitas, curries and mushroom dishes, or roasted or grilled with other veggies to total caramelized deliciousness? I can hardly imagine a meal without onions.

But here’s the thing: Unlike those pungent onions, sweet onions are high in water, so they bruise easily, which can lead to mold and rot. You must handle and store them with care, and inspect them often, using those that start shriveling or softening or showing signs of mold first. Even so, I would never recommend storing any onions in the refrigerator, with one exception: the sweet onion Candy. Candy is so full of water that it bleeds milky sap when you cut it, and around here, anyway, it’s always sold without its skin. If your farmers’ market or farm stand sells Candy onions, and you want to use them, refrigerate them in the vegetable crisper drawer and use them as soon as you can. I bought them for a couple of years when they first began appearing at farm markets around here, and they’re certainly good, but they were just too messy for me, and took up precious refrigerator space that other vegetables were clamoring for. Sorry, Candy!

Of course, if you end up using only part of a sweet onion (gasp, why would you do that?), you should store the rest in a zipper-lock bag in the crisper drawer and plan to use the rest within a day or two. (Maybe your fridge is roomier than mine or your crisper drawers are emptier, but I think those trendy onion-shaped onion storers just take up too much room. With sweet onions, I’ve never had the onion flavor migrate out of the plastic bag.)

Otherwise, I’d store my Vidalia or Walla Walla or whatever sweet onions with my garlic, shallots, and the like, out in the open where they can get some air and avoid refrigerator condensation. I store mine in a huge stainless steel bowl, oldest on top, and check them every day. Given how fast I use them, this works fine for me. Checking our good friend Google, I saw that there were several other recommended storage methods. One is the good old technique of storing them in the legs of sheer pantyhose, knotting the hose between each onion, then hanging them in a cool, dark place like a basement. (Not, mind you, a cool, damp place like the basement of my family home.) When you need an onion, you simply cut off the pantyhose above the next knot. Another tip was to spread them out on screens so they weren’t touching, and store the screens in a cool, dark place. A root cellar is great for this if you have one.

I don’t have a root cellar (sob), or a basement, or a cool, dark place. Nor am I trying to store a 50-pound bag of sweet onions. For me, the bowl works fine. But I still had a question: Would sweet onions store better if they were placed in the bowl (or any storage situation) with their root sides down and their stem sides up? Might this add to their longevity? Or might storing them root-ends up be the answer?

Sadly, Google offered no advice. I’ve decided to try an experiment, putting the latest batch all stem-ends up, and see if I notice a reduction in spoilage or extension of longevity. If not, I’ll try them stem-side down. Has anyone found the fountain of youth for sweet onions? If so, please share it with us.

‘Til next time,

Silence

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