How to plait onions & our onion experiment

As you might remember, we decided to experiment with growing onions from seed this year.  But taking a ‘belt and braces’ approach, we also planted some onion sets.

Large onion grown from set

Our champion onion!

The onion sets easily outstripped the seeds in terms of convenience and size.  In fact, they were our best onions ever, despite the drought conditions.  While the onions grown from seed were fairly successful, they were labour intensive and the size was variable.  The seed onions took longer to grow, were more prone to bolting, and we had a failure rate of around 25%.

We can only assume this year’s onion set success can be attributed to the addition of chicken manure pellets to the soil, regular feeding and frequent watering.  However, both groups of onions were treated in the same way to control the experiment.

We’ve had problems storing onions in the past.  But this could be because we’ve dried them in our plastic plant house.  The onions dried this way seemed to cook in the extreme heat instead of drying slowly and naturally.

Plaited onions hanging up

Onion plaits in storage

Another challenge has been stringing up the onions. I found several sets of instructions on how to string onions, but have always found them difficult to follow.  Instead, I developed my own method of plaiting onions which is fast and effective.   Rather than writing instructions which would be hard to follow, we’ve made a short video about plaiting onions  which you’ll find on YouTube.

This year however, I did find very useful video on stringing onions, which was clear and easy to follow.  But not being known for my patience, I found this to be time-consuming and much more fiddly.  So after one string, I reverted to my tried and tested method of making onions plaits.

Plaiting onions is a lot like French plaiting hair (except onions don’t complain whereas little girls generally do!).  Grade your onions and if possible, use onions of around the same size.  Alternatively, start with the bigger ones at the bottom of the plait for uniformity.

Our onions grown from seeds are still drying out but will be ready to plait soon.  Once they have matured, we’ll put the final stages of our experiment to the test and compare the flavour and the shelf-life to those grown from sets.

At the moment the indications are we will be sticking to onions sets in the future.  The time and work involved in growing the seeds would seem to outweigh the advantages.

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