If you are going to keep onions over the winter (and into the spring and possibly summer), you’re going to want to make sure they are getting plenty of air, as air circulation is key to their preservation. There’s nothing worse than putting all your onions up for the year in a box or bucket and finding later that there was one that went bad and now you have to toss them all (or most) out.
I’ve seen different ways people put their onions up, including 5 gallon buckets with holes drilled in them, wood boxes with plenty of gaps in the sides, etc. But in my experience, braiding my onions and hanging them up in a cool, dark place (my root cellar) is the best place for them. I make sure to check each string a couple times a month for any rotting. I just slowly twirl the strand around, and if I find one has rotted, I just pluck it off and discard it.
By the time spring planting comes around, I usually have some onions left. I have a trick for any of the ones that happen to start sprouting at this time so they don’t go to waste. I’ll show you that later. For now, let’s look at braiding them.
Start with onions that have dried and cured. After they are dry, cut the tops off (pull them apart with your hands, really), about 6 inches above the bulb. If you wait a really long time after they are dried, the tops will just break and this won’t work. You’ll need to time this to do as soon as the tops are thin and dry enough to manipulate.
Don’t peel the papers off. I wipe mine mostly clean, but don’t wash them.
Prepare all your onions this way, and divide them up into a small, medium, and large stack if you want.
Next, you’ll want to have a loop of rope. I always use baling twine because it’s what I have, and I use it for everything. It’s also rated for 170 pounds, and these onions braids get heavy.
I think the first one is the hardest (click on the image to enlarge). Put the top through to the bottom of your loop, then bend it back past the first string, and then bend it again past the second string. You are making a figure 8. If your onions were cured properly, it should stay in place. All your instincts will tell you it can’t possibly hold. But amazingly, it does.
Now, the key when you put the next one on, is to place the top in the opposite direction than the end of the last one was facing. Again, bend it back around the string, make a figure 8, and bend it past the other string. Click on the image to enlarge it in a new window.
You will want to make sure to have your loop of rope hanging at a comfortable height, since you’ll be standing here awhile. Also, pick up your bundle and check it every-so-often. These get heavy fast. Don’t do too many, or you won’t be able to lift it. And you want to make sure where-ever you are storing them has a sturdy enough hook to hold the weight.
You can either make a separate strand for the large, medium and small ones, or you can put all the larges on the bottoms, then put the medium ones on, and then the small ones on the top.
When you are ready to use them, try to pluck them from the top down. If you take the occasional one from the side, it will be okay–but if you make a habit of this, they will eventually start to fall out as they loose their support.
On top of being practical for food storage, these are beautiful decorations. I have three of them (purple, white, and another purple) hanging on my porch right now. I get a lot of complements on them.
I’ll keep them outside in the wind to get as much air as possible until it starts to get humid or snow. Then, they store well in a root cellar for about the next 8 months to a year. A well ventilated, cool, dark place could be used as an alternative. I have hung them in my well by the potatoes in the past (not in an area that could possibly contaminate the water).
Three Last Things To Remember:
- Always check your onions carefully. It only takes one bad one to ruin them all.
- Always make sure they are getting plenty of air.
- Never peel them (or ideally, clean them) until you use them.
If you find a few months of storage have passed and your onions begin sprouting or going bad, considered dehydrating them before you loose entire strands.
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