Harvesting Seeds from Onion Heads

Author: Meera, June 12, 2014


Closeup of the dried flower head of an onion with black seeds

Closeup of the dried flower head of an onion with black seeds




The red and yellow onions I planted during winter here on the farmette have produced lots of fat bulbs. Now that warm weather has arrived, the plants have sent up spikes with a flower head in a process called bolting.


I’ve been using the onions in culinary creations. Now that they are bolting, I’m saving the seed heads for my next round of planting (when the weather gets cooler again).


When the seed heads I’ve collected have dried a bit, black seeds will spill out. I shake them onto paper and then store them in paper envelopes where they can dry out even more.



Newly flowered onion seed head with honeybee

Newly flowered onion seed head with honeybee; see, upper right corner



The benefits of growing onions from seed rather than sets (also called seedlings) is that they perform better, are less susceptible to disease, bulb up somewhat quicker than seedlings, and store better. The seeds germinate quickly (7 to 10 days) and may be eaten in as early as 8 to 10 weeks.


Growing onions is easy. Broadcast your seed in a prepared bed when the weather is warm and all danger of frost has passed. Barely cover with soil (roughly 1/4 inch) and keep damp until seeds have germinated. If you prefer, start some onion seeds in flats to set out in the garden as seedlings.


Harvest bulbs throughout the growing season or wait until the tops flop over. Store onions in the refrigerator in a nylon stocking  wrapped individually between onions to maintain freshness. The National Gardening Association has some good tips for harvesting and storing onions. See http://www.garden.org/foodguide/browse/veggie/onions_harvesting/501.



With so many onion types from which to choose, decide how you’ll use each in the kitchen and then grow various heirloom types, depending on purpose and flavor. And . . . don’t worry if next spring, you discover your onions bolting. It’s a good thing to have a seed source for such an important kitchen staple.



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