Tuesday 28 September 2010

How to plait onions

Today's 'How to' comes from me, aka Brigitte from purlsofcolour, who wants to show you how to plait onions.



Well, plaiting is crafty and onions are foody, and cooking is also a craft, so...

Most of you have probably seen strands of beautifully plaited onions (or garlic) hanging from kitchen windows or market stalls in France. My neighbour told me she remembers when French onion sellers used to come on the ferry over to England, cycled to the towns and cities with strings of onions around their necks, and sold onions on the plait.

Now you can have a bit of the French lifestyle in your own home!

I recently was at a fabulous place called Laurieston Hall, a co-operative in Scotland which grows most of their own vegetables in an amazing garden.* And there, we learnt that a good way to store onions is to hang them up, so that air can circulate around them. That's where the plaiting comes in.

This is one method I learnt - there is another one, but I had so much fun with this one, I never got round to learn the other way to plait onions...

Grab 12 onions that are cleaned from dirt, with the stalks still attached. Take three onions and place them beside each other with the middle one slightly lying lower than the side ones. Tie a string around the stalks of all three and align the string with the stalk of the middle one - this will stabilise the plait, especially when the stalks are very dry and a bit brittle.

Now start the plaiting of the stalks and the string, as if in French plaiting. Add another onion above the middle one and plait the stalk, then add one to one side, then an onion to the other side, then another one in the middle...plaiting and weaving the stalks in continuously.

A dozen onions is a good size for a plait, but use less if you feel the plait is too heavy and could break - fix the string around the end of the plait and make a loop so that you can hang them up.


Onion plaiting is really fun to do and strangely satisfying - it's a hands-on, very 'earthy' job, and you know your belly will profit from it. That surely can't be a bad thing...

There is something really beautiful about lots and lots of plaited onions!

(My stomach aches for onion Quiche or the German Zwiebelkuchen - so yummy!)

When I returned to Belfast, I was looking out for onions with the stalks still attached so that I could plait them, but alas, looks like I have to grow my own for to do that!

*Laurieston Hall will host a craft week from 11-18 June 2011, which will particularly focus on folk arts and crafts that are low tech and use natural or recycled materials. I really want to participate, and I'll let you know when I get more information.


  1. What a cute idea! Looks like a fun project to do with friends for a party!

    Rambles with Reese

  2. It's very refreshing to read something different like this on the blog.

    Reminds me of my childhood. My parents filled the garden with fruit, veg and flowers but also rented an allotment (or 'plot')on the outskirts of Dublin. We spent a fair few Saturdays helping to plant and dig up onions and a host of other veg. My mum would plait the onions like this.

  3. Great article Brigitte
    Maybe you could start a trend with pompoms as substitute onions and make then into something exciting for Christmas.... dont mind me, my head is all over the place this morning.....

  4. Mo, I do like your way of thinking...maybe an alternative advent calendar...


    Anne-Marie, most of my neighbours had allotments when I grew up. So we spent many happy days in peoples' "gardens" as we called them, eating fruit and climbing trees. Allotments are starting to get popular in Belfast again, but these aren't ones with fences and little huts like those in Germany, but just plots.

  5. yes Purls, my Dad used to call it 'The Plot' which sounds mighty ominous. It was up Tallaght direction somewhere around where the Square shopping centre is now. My sisters and I spent most of the time picking blackberries and rosehips that grew wild on the perimeter, supposedly for pies, jams or syrup, but we ate half of what we picked as we went.

    Thanks for evoking these memories...oh-oh, I sound really old now.....

  6. Hehehe, not too old, after all, allotments are going strong again. In some big cities in Germany, allotments cover quite a big area, and look a bit like a ghetto (as a friend pointed out to me) - lots of little fenced-in veggie plots complete with quaint wooden shacks, flag poles, benches or chairs, and barbecue sets.