The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to braid onions

Curing onions

Like many storage vegetables, onions need a curing period after harvest so that they'll dry thoroughly and won't rot on the shelf.  In the past, I've laid the bulbs out on screens, but this year I wanted to give the traditional method --- braiding --- a try.

Some of our onions are further along than others since I tried out several planting methods this spring. First thing in the morning, I plucked out any that had completely or nearly dried up leaves and turned them on their side to do a little pre-drying.  The rest of the crop will come out next week.

Harvest onions

By afternoon, the bulbs were dry to the touch (although some of the leaves were still wet.)  Time to braid!

Many websites will tell you to braid around a string, and I can see the point --- you won't end up with this:

Braided onions drying

However, as long as you're careful, you can braid your onions with just the leaves.  Start with three onions and braid them for a couple of loops for a firm bottom, then start adding a new onion each time you loop one of your three lines of leaves to the center.  Once you get good at it, you'll realize that some onions have long, strong stalks while others have short, weak stalks.  You can slip the weaker-stalked onions in when your current line looks bulky enough to last another round.

Braiding onions

At the end, I tied a bit of baling twine around the braided tops to give me an easy hanging point.

As a side note, you'll find it much easier to braid your onions if you take them inside and work on a flat surface.  Braiding in the grass means you tend to literally braid in the grass.

Braided onions

That said, braiding was simple and fun.  And the project required significantly less time than it would have taken me to find a sheltered spot and set up my drying screens.

I'll leave my onions in braids for a few weeks until they're bone dry, then will cut the heads off and store them in mesh bags on a kitchen shelf.  I suspect we'll run out of onions long before they go bad --- our total harvest will probably clock in around 35 or 40 pounds, which should last us about three or four months.  Now that I've figured out the best method (more on that in a later post), we'll be growing many more onions next year!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I think onions are my favorite "crop." Last year my granddaughter said they looked just like the ones you buy at Kroger, heh. I braided the garlic this year, but will probably go back to a hard-neck variety. Hadn't thought to braid the onions, but I have time and room for one more crop, I think. You and Mark are such an inspiration.
Comment by Debbi Thu Jul 21 08:02:49 2011
After seeing how easy it was to braid the onions, I started thinking I should have braided the garlic too. Next year! Of course, as you'll see in a later post, we're going to be growing more hardneck garlic next year too.
Comment by anna Thu Jul 21 08:22:59 2011

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