There must be something in the air when it comes to onions.
…I’m not referring to the unmistakable, eye-watering aroma of a freshly chopped onion.
I’m talking about the fact that so many of us gardeners seem to be planting way more onions than we know what to do with!
Luckily, there are endless ways to use up even the most abundant onion harvests.
Today, we’re going to talk about my favorite ways to make the most out of every onion from your garden — even all those extras!
I’ve been looking forward to sharing these ideas with you, so let’s get right into it!
What To Do With Extra Onions From Your Garden:
- Store Them
- Roast Them
- Freeze Them
- Dehydrate Them
- Pickle Them
- Make Kimchi
- Make Jam
- Fry Them
- Caramelize Them
- Clean, Polish & Shine
- Repel Bugs
Here at GreenUpside, we have equal enthusiasm for each and every one of these possibilities. In fact, we’re advocates for trying every single one at least once!
For today’s post, though, let’s start by diving into how to properly store your onions.
First thing is first. Let’s make sure you’re storing your onions in a way that optimizes their freshness and preserves their shelf life.
To put it simply: onions like cool, dark places that have little-to-no moisture.
Too much humidity causes condensation on your onions, which can lead to quicker spoilage.
Nobody likes wet, squishy, rotted onions.
(Seriously, don’t eat them if they’re soft or squishy.)
The best temperatures for storing your freshly harvested onions fall between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since the ideal storage climate for your onions is warmer than your fridge — but likely cooler than the rest of your house, they will be best suited in your basement or garage.
Growing up, my dad always stored his onions in the porch hallway that was between the garage and the rest of the house. It was always about 15 degrees F cooler in there than in the rest of the house.
Fresh, unpeeled, and uncut onions always lasted for a couple of months in our porch hallway. From when you harvest them, you can probably expect to get 2 months out of your onions before you have to start worrying about their freshness.
If you don’t have a garage or a basement, the fridge will work OK.
Emphasis on the word “OK” —because while a refrigerator works somewhat well for onion storage, it’s definitely not the ideal place for them to live. Fridges are usually between 35 and 38 degrees F, which is a little cooler than your onions would “prefer”.
Fridges also provide a more humid environment than an onion “likes” to inhabit. All in all though, it’s better than leaving them on the warm counter.
You can usually expect unpeeled and uncut onions to stay fresh around 6 or 7 weeks in the fridge (give or take)
Once you peel them, you’re looking at no longer than 2 weeks of storage in the fridge before they start to turn.
If you cut them, it’s even less. You’re looking at 7-10 days tops.
So, though it may be tempting to peel the outer layers from your onions in order to reveal that beautiful, shiny skin — hold off until you’re ready to use those onions.
The dry, outer layer of an onion actually brings quite a bit of value to the table it helps protect and preserve the onion within.
So, don’t peel your onions before you store them!
Grab your parchment paper!
(& your onions, of course)
Seriously, can anybody resist the delicious aroma of roasted onions?
When you combine freshly sliced onions to the heat of a warm, (well, hot really) toasty oven — you get…
If you take a whiff, it’ll remind you of onion rings (appropriately.)
For roasted onions, all you need is an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, freshly peeled & sliced onions, and some olive oil (or avocado oil!).
Yes, that’s really it.
If you’d like to add some sea salt, pepper, and some dried herbs to taste — you can do that too! (It isn’t required, though.)
Note: Slicing your onions horizontally into rounds will keep them together so they hold up nicely — like onion rings.
Once you lay your onions onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, you can then roast them for about a half hour.
The onions will sweeten as they cook. You can then use them in countless recipes that call for roasted onions — or even create your own kitchen masterpieces!
Have fun with it — and enjoy!
This is a great way to preserve your onions for future use.
After you’ve roasted your onions, they’ll hold up well in the freezer for 8 to 10 months.
That’s a long time. Just think of how many plant-based pepper and onion pizzas you could make in that amount of time!
Just remember, foods with moisture in them tend to stick together when frozen. So, it’s a good idea to pre-freeze your roasted onions while they’re still spread out and separated on a baking sheet.
After your onions are completely frozen (and not frozen together), you can then put them in a Tupperware container or freezer bag until the next time you need some onions for a recipe!
Just don’t forget to indicate on your calendar what day and month you initially froze your onions. That way, you can set reminders for yourself (via calendar or App) to use up those onions as the end of their shelf life draws near.
Note: For a Greener planet, consider reusing and recycling your containers and freezer bags. Even Ziploc Bags can be turned inside-out, washed, rinsed, and left on the drying rack for many additional uses in the future!
What an excellent way to preserve your onions.
By dehydrating you’re onions, you’ll protect them from spoiling at room temperature due to would-be moisture.
If using a food dehydrator, you can dehydrate onion slices at 125 degrees F for 4-8 hours. Remember to rotate your onion trays so that your onions dehydrate evenly.
Note: Dehydrate your onions on your porch or in low-traffic area or your house to avoid stinking up the parts of the house that your family spends the most time in.
If you’re looking for a more old fashioned way to dehydrate your onions (or if you don’t have a dehydrator and don’t plan on getting one any time soon) — try using the sun!
Since you’re here (and therefore — likely a gardener) I imagine you love spending time in the good old outdoors. So what better place than your own backyard to naturally dehydrate and preserve your abundance of onions!
You can leave whole, raw, unpeeled onions outside for a few warm and sunny days until they dry out enough for the outer skin to become crisp and brown.
You can then cut away the roots and tops of your dried onions and cure them a bit longer indoors — right on your countertop (but out of direct sunlight).
Once they’re properly dehydrated, the possibilities are never-ending!
Use your crunchy, dehydrated onion strips in soups, salads, or even alone as a deliciously satisfying (and healthy) snack!
If you haven’t tried pickled onions yet…do yourself a favor and get on that.
There’s nothing like a salad, sandwich or falafel wrap chock-full of pickled red onions.
Sweet, savory, pickle bliss.
While its definitely more common to pickle red onions, you can pickle sweet onions, too (and they’re both quite good, to boot).
My favorite pickled onion recipe is this one from Ali over at gimmesomeoven.com! The best part: this recipe calls for just 5 ingredients and only a half hour of your time.
I encourage you to try pickling various types of onions in order to get an idea of what you like best.
Once you’ve pickled your onions, you have tons of options for how to eat them. They’re sensational and pair well anything savory.
My favorite way to eat pickled onions is to stuff a generous amount of them into a pita pocket filled with hummus, tabouleh, and baked tofu. They also go nicely when sprinkled over fresh veggie-stuffed grape leaves.
Whether you pile them high on top of a veggie burger or scoop them into your loaded Bloody Mary at Sunday Brunch, pickled onions are guaranteed crowd-pleasers.
If you read the last article on gifts for master gardeners, then you already know I’m a big advocate of fermented foods — particularly kimchi.
& you know how excited I got over the fermentation kits my Mom gave as holiday gifts.
If you’re interesting in getting a fermentation kit of your own, you might like these fermentation kits from mason tops.com.
Kimchi is packed with essential vitamins, nutrients, and probiotics that supports a healthy body and mind. It’s incredibly delicious, too.
What you might not have known, though, is that you actually don’t even need a fermentation kit to make mouthwateringly tasty kimchi at home.
Last year, there was a surplus of onions and Napa cabbage in our family garden. (You know what that means…KIMCHEE!!)
It’s fun to play around with the amount of onions in a kimchi recipe so you can really get it to come out to your liking. I for one, am big on onions, so you can never add too much when it comes to fermenting and pickling onions.
Homemade kimchi is simply divine — and it wouldn’t be nearly as delectable as it is if it weren’t for the flavorful role that the onions play.
So thank you, onions.
There’s nothing like some crispy onion rings or a flaky, aromatic blooming onion made fresh in your own kitchen.
If you’re not a fan of deep-fried foods, why not look into a healthier alternative to the traditional way of frying your onions, like an air fryer?
If traditional onion rings aren’t your style, you could also make your own adaptations to create your own air-fried blooming onion recipe.
If you do this, don’t forget to share it with the rest of us!
Caramalized onions are not only absolutely delicious — but also perfect on top of a mile high veggie burger with fresh microgreens, tomato, avocado, some vegan barbecue sauce.
Some vegan butter or olive oil in a pan, some heat, some chopped onions — and you’re good to go!
Caramelized onions make a fabulous pizza topping, too. Onion and pepper pizza has always been mine and my family’s go-to pizza — whether ordering from a restaurant or baking home.
Onion and pepper pizza is delectable no matter what you use as a base. From vegan pesto and fresh tomatoes — to sweet and spicy barbecue sauce — you can’t go wrong with some fresh sautéed onions on your pizza!
Another cool way to use your caramelized onions is to make caramelized onion jam. I’ve seen tons of recipes online over the years — ranging from balsamic onion jam to sweet caramelized onion jam.
Another one of my favorite onion-based comfort foods is onion soup. Something about it is just so cozy and nostalgic. Onion soup is one of those soups that feels like an entire experience — rather than just a meal. From the warm bowl in your hands to the sweet, nothing-quite-like-it aroma — onion soup on a cool night is soul-soothing.
Don’t forget to use your onions to make fresh and unique caramelized onion dips! Besides, when it’s time to put out apps for party guests, what could be more appetizing than a bowl of fresh-baked potato chips using potatoes from your own garden?
I’ll tell you what.
So, when I talk about dip, you already know I’m not talking about that prepackaged stuff.
I’m talking about from-scratch dip.
You can top your homemade dip with freshly chopped onion chives, too (since I know you have way more onions than you know what to do with.)
Oh, and please don’t forget to use your caramelized onions to experiment with plant-based gravy recipes.
As a plant-based eater, I’m always looking for alternatives to traditional gravy recipes.
With trial and error, I’ve discovered that there are tons of plant-based gravy recipes that use very few ingredients other than fresh veggies and herbs straight from your garden!
My favorite way to make gravy is to caramelize lots of onions and mushrooms in a pan with vegan butter. I then add some veggie broth, herbs and spices to taste, and put it all in the blender (once it cools down a bit).
It’s delicious and I know you’ll love it just as much as I do.
Make Onion Powder
Onion powder is a lot easier to make than you might think.
We already talked about how to dehydrate your onions.
Once you’ve mastered dehydrated onions, you really only need to add one more step…
The food processor.
So long as your onions are properly dehydrated, you can grind your onions down into a fine powder that stores well in a sealed mason jar or glass spice jar.
Homemade onion powder is perfect for endless recipes ranging from your morning homefries to your evening sautéed spinach or Swiss chard!
Oh, and like we went over a bit earlier — it makes an excellent “Bug-Free-Tea”.
Clean, Polish & Shine
Do you ever find yourself struggling to scrub pots and pans that are covered with caked on food?
(Don’t be embarrassed — it happens to the best of us!)
Well, fortunately your surplus of onions offers a truly genius life hack:
Using half of an onion as a scrubber.
I know, it sounds kind of “out there”, but you can actually slice an onion in half and put the sliced side face down onto your most tedious-to-clean pots.
The onion will break down food particles that would otherwise remain stuck to your dishes.
Add just a bit of elbow grease and your pans will be clean in no time!
You can actually polish your silverware, your grill, and many other metal surfaces with onions, too.
Pretty cool, right?
Did you know you can use onions to repel unwanted bugs and insects from your garden?
Yes, you read that right.
You can take advantage of the sulfur compounds in onions — which are hated by many insects, including aphids, beetles, rust flies, and even mosquitos — to reduce the number of unwanted insects in your garden.
There are many recipes for creating garden onion spray. You can certainly explore many of these with a quick internet search.
Here at GreenUpside, we like to keep it simple. So we recommend either liquefying some raw onions in a blender or juicer and pouring it into a spray bottle — or steeping homemade onion powder (which I’ll explain how to make a bit further down in this article) in warm water until it forms what we like to call a “Bug-Free-Tea”.
By the way, while there are certainly health benefits (such as lowering your blood sugar) to taking a few sips of your “Bug-Free-Tea”, you might be better suited to pour that tea into a spray bottle and use it as garden insect repellent.
Raw onion is definitely an acquired taste (and it’s acquired by few).
Once you’ve made your garden insect repellent, you can spray some directly onto your plants to prevent bugs from landing on them and sucking away all their juice.
Another way to use onion to repel bugs is to simply plant them!
That’s right. You can plant onions near your vegetable crops and other plants that are commonly targeted by insects. Even if it keeps away just half of the aphids, it’ll make a noticeable difference.
I know what you’re thinking.
“How can I use something so incredibly stinky to remove odors?
Cut it in half and leave it on a plate in the room with the offensive smell.
Yup, it’s that easy.
Onions don’t just cover up odors. They absorb and neutralize them.
Grab an onion.
Unbearable paint fumes?
Grab an onion.
Is your mudroom starting to smell like old, dirty shoes?
Grab. An. Onion.
You’re probably getting the picture.
Just remember, this will only be effective with a raw onion.
Slice it in half and leave the sliced halves open to the air.
The onions will take care of the rest.
As a gardener, you’ve spent plenty of time taking care of your plants — including your onions. So, you deserve to have your onions take care of you!
I’m so happy that you came across this guest post by LMadGz. Now you know how to get the most out of your abundant quantity of onions!
You can also read some the most popular GreenUpside posts here.
I wish you a lifetime of bountiful harvests!