Come late summer, you'll see signs that the time to harvest your Dakota Tears onions is near. Dakota Tears is a long day onion, meaning they require long days-- 14 to 15 hours of daylight-- to form bulbs. When the days get shorter and the onions reach maturity they start to go dormant. The food made in the leaves is stored in the onion bulbs. The inner leaves stop producing new blades, the hollow-centered neck weakens, and the onion tops start to kink over.
It is important to let the plants go dormant before harvesting, or they won’t store well. Do not water them at this point.
During a dry spell, when most of the onion tops have toppled and started to brown, and the bulbs have developed skins, carefully pull the onions out of the ground. Then gather them up and set them to cure in a warm, dry, airy place, somewhere where they are out of the sun, heat and rain.
Curing onions in hot summer sun will bleach and soften the outside tissue. This will encourage disease and rot.
We use a drying rack with four stacked screens bolted to angle iron sides and mounted on wheels. The rack can be moved in and out of the garage as needed and kept in the shade. The mobile rack gives us the ability to bring onions in before a heavy dew, rain or freezing temperatures.
Onions take three to four weeks to cure before they’re ready to go into storage. This is what they look like when they are fully cured and ready to prep for the storeroom.
Once the onions have full cured, remove the dried onion leaves from the top of the bulb and the dried roots at the base. Then brush any dirt off the skins. Leave the skins in tact as much as possible when you’re cleaning. The skins protect onions in storage.
Cull any onions showing any signs of rot. Watch our latest video and we'll show you what to watch for and what to cull. Carefully inspect the root and stem areas of every onion for any softness or moisture. Compost the ones that have actual rot. If you find any that are suspect, sort them out to be eaten first. Onions that have a thick stem or neck will not dry down properly and should also be eaten right away. They won't store well either.
Look for onions that show signs of thrip damage. Here's an example of what that thrip damage can look like. Note the grey speckled appearance; you may even mistake this for mold. This is caused by thrips. The onion layers underneath are likely to be unaffected; so just peel off the outer layer and eat right away as well.
Onions should be stored in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. We store our Dakota Tears onions in a room that averages 45-50°F. You can use the traditional onion bag or store them in shallow boxes or bins with newspaper lining.
Here's a picture of our onion storage bins, built with pine boards and a plywood base. The front side walls are fluted at an angle to provide increased air circulation and easy access. Don't stack the onions too deep in boxes or bins to ensure adequate air circulation.
Watch our companion video to see the entire process and learn more! As always, wishing you abundant harvests!
Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan
Prairie Road Organic Seed