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Stupid question

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I am used to buying one or two onions at a time but I plan to cook more and eat out less so I'd like to have onions on hand when I cook. So my stupid question is how long do onions last unpeeled in the fridge? Thanks.

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  1. There are no stupid questions. Almost all members of the allium family are better off being kept cool and dry. Refrigerators are damp and encourage onions and garlic to sprout. The exceptions seem to be Vidalias and scallions (green onions). You can keep onions for awhile in the fridge but in the long run you are better off buying a 5 lb. bag,preferably mesh and hanging it where they get some decent air circulation that is also not too hot either.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Also, avoid storing them near potatoes because potatoes give off moisture that is absorbed by onions.

      I recall seeing some guidelines that mentioned 30 days as the storage life for onions. That would be in line with my own experience.

      1. re: Sam D.

        Stop. We all had to learn (most of us the hard way). Whole onions should never be stored in the refrigerator. Never--the moisture allows the onion to sprout. In days of old, onions were kept in the "root cellar" the coolest, DRIEST, part of the house. The above suggestion of purchasing them in those net bags that allow air circulation if you hang them up are ideal. If you want to buy the onions in small quantities, there are some that suggest hanging them in clean panty hose.

        Note that there are two types of onions: one is a good storage onion and one is not. There is the onion grown in warm weather climates like California, Georgia and Texas. They grow them in the fall and pick them in the spring. Your Vadalia and Walla Walla onions are some of the brand names. These do not store well.

        Then there are the real onions: the ones that make you cry when you peel them. They're grown in the more nothern areas and are planted in the spring, picked in the late summer. They're cured (dried somewhat) by the growers and delivered in the fall. Those are your storage onions. (My apologies for the megapost.)

        1. re: dk

          I think you elaboratd on what i said simply

          1. re: Candy

            Pardon me, Candy. I did not read your very simplistic (not simple) reply until after I read this arrogant post. I simply tried to point out which species of allium stored well, which I thought was the original author's point and I now see you do not mention. In the future, I'll ask your permission to reply to any questions because you clearly have many, many more hours to review this board than I do. My deepest apologies.

            1. re: dk

              Back off, Dude. By the way, I would like to know how many root cellers you've been in. Myself, I've been in a whole lot seeing as how I'm a pretty old geezer. Root cellers were probably the dampest place on the farm, next to the cold celler where milk was kept. Onions were usually bagged and stored in the barn or on the back porch (Marshall, MO.). Bet you never heard of fly round-ups either!

              1. re: Sony Bob

                OK, I'll bite, what's a fly round up?

                1. re: Spudlover

                  Back in the day, on the farm, fly's would become a huge annoyance in the farmhouse so all the kids would be given a sheet and would go room to room, shooing the flies out then closing the doors. Then they would start at the front of the house and, working their way from front to back, shoo the flies out the back door.
                  True story per my Dad and Uncle who grew up on the farm with two other brothers and a bunch of cousins. 1920's.

                  1. re: Sony Bob

                    I believe it, in fact I remember some bartenders using the same technique on me and my buddies at closing time.

                    We often forget how easy we have it today. I live north, where there is lots of snow. I saw an old cartoon from the 30's that said a lot about how those folks had to live. It was a simple drawing of an outhouse, with a path shoveled halfway to it. Then the shovel was stuck in the snowbank and there were footprints from there to the outhouse door. Didn't need a caption, the picture told it all.

          2. re: dk

            Have always kept onions in the fridge, right in the vegetable bin, where it's definitely damp, because it cuts down considerably on the eye irritation factor. Never had a problem with sprouting, but never kept them around for more than a couple of weeks. They reside happily with the shallots and garlic. I buy individual loose onions, not a whole bag, as and when I need 'em, so they're not kicking around forever. Wouldn't want a giant bag of onions hangng somewhere and stinking up my house, and this way I can select size and check for freshness, which you can't do with one of those big bags.

            1. re: dk

              I Googled Vidalia and California and found a website complaining that California is far and away the biggest sweet onion producing state but that those danged folks from Georgia are marketing them as Vidalia and have sneakily advertised that THEIR onions are the real sweet onions. Ah, the joys of the free market.

              Somebody once told me that one should always feel around the "neck" of the onion (where the stalk was cut off) to make sure it's firm. If it's not, it's a sign of "neck rot" (or something like that) and that there is probably some spoilage inside.

              I also wanted to comment on the person who said he/she didn't want onions "stinking up my house". I don't know where he/she is buying onions or how long he/she is storing them, but onions don't give off any noticeable smell unless they've been around for quite a while. At least not in my house - where I keep them on the counter in a container with lots of holes to allow air to circulate.

              1. re: oakjoan

                I agree. With my large collection of yellow, white, red onions, and shallots you would think mine might smell, but no. Then again I love the savory smell of onions, but that only happens when you cut into them.

              2. re: dk

                I always get those 3-lb bags of yellow onions and put them in a collapsible wire basket hung up next to my aprons. It's out of the light, but there's plenty of air circulation. Once in a while I have one rot on me, but not at all often.

                FWIW, when we were visiting a chateau in Burgundy, we were not at all surprised to see the potatoes in the wine cellar...but when we got up to the attic, there was about a 10' square area of floor covered in onions!

                1. re: dk

                  In my part of the world (Oregon), the stronger-flavored yellow onions are called Spanish onions. Always select those with smooth skins. Walla Wallas from our neighbors in Washington State are my personal favorites for French onion soup. My mother's best friend lived on a large farm in Central Oregon and in addition to growing grass seed, mint and potatoes, she and her husband also raised elephant garlic. One year, after the combines had made their paths through the fields, my mother and Barb gleened garlic from the nearly empty fields. A 19-pound box of garlic arrived at my office one day addessed to me. The UPS man said, *I don't know what is in this box but it's smelling up my whole truck.*...tee hee. I, too, was taught to place the garlic in clean pantihose. I'd hang mine on a hall tree out in the garage. They'd last an entire year.

            2. If you buy an onion and you don't use them for a week or two, you can always chop the onions and freeze them for use in items such as chili or spaghetti sauces.

              Hate to waste any food.

              1. Okay, stupid answer: it varies.

                Generally, the milder onions (like Vidalias) have very short shelf life (Vidalias keep maybe a week or possibly two) and the stronger ones keep longer.

                I wouldn't trouble with the refrigerator - they'll keep as long as they decide to. Every now and then I get a 50-lb bag of huge onions from the restaurant supply store when the price is right ($10-$15), give some away (much to the puzzlement of my friends), enjoy and use the fresh ones, and engage in a massive onion-recipe-marathon when they start to age.

                1. I think your saying you do not want to waste any onion -- buy more and then throw them out if unused. I hand select my onions and buy only the longer shapped ones -- never the baseball shape. The reason is I hate to see food wasted. Picture cutting off the ends of a banana. Not much banana is cut as opposed to cutting off the ends of an apple. When cutting off the top & bottom of an apple you will be cutting more into the area of the fruit. Same is true with a long onion as opposed to a rounded onion. So buy long onions and maybe you will have enough left over to not have to cut another the next day. Is this a stupid answer?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Like-Go-Eat?

                    I like the "longer" onions too as I find them easier to slice than the squatter, flying saucer shaped ones. But I keep hearing that the squatter ones are better. Anyone know if that's true and why?

                  2. i keep a few out on the counter top at all times and they usually last weeks. also, i remove the hard outside layer if it's loose--figure that helps them stay dry and mold-free.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hobokeg

                      Actually that dry skin is a barrier for moisture. On garlic and onions it should be left until use.

                    2. You have good responses from all posters. Maybe when I am independently wealthy I will have time to tie my onions up in pantyhose (I love onions, but not that way). For decades I have just put them in the vegetable bin, and they are fine for weeks. I've seen no sprouting, and if the outside layers are a little wilted I just go deeper to the good parts.

                      But I want to report on shallots, which I noticed yesterday were 4.99 per pound in the store. Each fall there is this great vendor in the farmers market that sells them for 1.00 a pint. Last fall I bought seven pints, and they have been wonderful all winter and all summer. I have about a pint left. The skins are drier than before, but the flesh seems just as good as when fresh. Eagerly awaiting this year's crop.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: Spudlover

                        Curious to know: did you store your shallots in the veg bin of your fridge (as you do your onions) or in a cool dry place?
                        BTW, cheap shallots (around $2/lb) can be found at most Asian supermarkets. I've even seen Melissa's shallots at our local supermart (Shaw's) for $3/lb.

                        1. re: ju

                          I store my shallots and garlic in a pottery bowl that is perforated,on my kitchen counter, it is sort of like a stoneware colander. There is good air circulation and I don't have problems with mold or sprouting.

                          I buy my garlic and shallots at my local Korean market and a lot of other veggies too, it is much less expensive than the chain stores. I saw a woman in the Kroger I shop most often buying a bunch of red bell peppers at $2.50+each. I wanted to go over to her and tell her that if she would go to the Asian market in the same shopping strip that the were only .99 a piece there.

                          1. re: ju

                            Yes, all the shallots and onions go in the bin together, and I usually don't bother taking them out of the plastic grocery bag. I have two bins, one devoted to onions (it's usually full cause we put them in everything) and the other to the rest of the vegetables. When I need one I look in all the bags and take whichever ones need to go first. And they are so beautiful at the farmers market right now.

                            Thanks to you and Carb Lover for the Asian tip. Our small town has one, but I've never been inside. Looks like tomorrow, though!

                            1. re: Spudlover

                              Sorry, I meant Candy, not Carb Lover.

                          2. re: Spudlover

                            Wow, that sounds fantastic. What Farmers' Market?

                            1. re: Bean Counter

                              It's in southeast Wisconsin.....more details forthcoming of you are close by.

                              1. re: Spudlover

                                No, I'm out in CA. But thanks for answering.

                                1. re: Bean Counter

                                  Food-4-Less, FoodMaxx, etc usually have shallots for about $2.00 per pound

                                  1. re: Jim H.

                                    We are getting ripped off in Wisconsin. They have always been expensive here, and never approached the prices mentioned today.

                                    1. re: Spudlover

                                      Although they are pretty cheap here in Cal, I usually plant a yearly crop. Many seed companies have shallot sets, usually in the Fall. Plant and leave alone until Spring...they will multiply greatly, and each bulb planted may yield 4 -5 new bulbs. After harvest, plant the remaining bulbs for next year.

                          3. To elaborate on an earlier post...two basic kinds of globe onions. The ones with a brown, hard skin are storage onions which will keep in a cool, dry place. The others will rot quickly.

                            1. Honey, take those onions out of the fridge right now.
                              Get up from the computer and take them out.
                              Unless they're chopped up already, then never mind - they'll last several days at least in a tight plastic bag.
                              But onions as God made them should be stored in a cool dark place like a bin in a floor level kitchen cabinet. There they will last maybe 3 weeks.
                              There are no stupid questions. If an onion gets moldy -
                              say goodbye to it.

                              1. Thanks to all. I'll take my onions out of the fridge and put them in a dark, dry, cool place.