Sunday, November 9, 2008

Don't Throw Away Those...Onion Trimmings

Don't you love how those cooking onions shed their flaky, papery bits here and there? I seem to always find them lurking wherever I store my onions. I used to throw them away, but now I've stopped fighting the incoming tide, and I gather them instead.

Those dry outer onion skins are said to make a beautiful natural dye, ranging from pale beige to warm gold to golden brown. I think the mordant would be vinegar or alum, and in skimming the recommendations here and there online, it says wool takes the dye better than cotton. I have yet to try this, but it's on my Later On list of To-Dos. Meanwhile, I've got a 5 gallon bag full of the skins, and everytime I chop another onion, the skin goes right into this bag...

We're also experimenting with saving the trimmed-off's a pic of some just-trimmed onion and leek roots. We're just sticking them back into some pots with decent soil to see if anything sprouts from them. If so, we'll either have a perpetual onion, a smaller snack-sized onion, or compost...ha!

We did have some onions take root from the simple trimmed ends...not sure about the leeks yet, though. These leek trimmings remind me of sea anemones...

Here's one of the onion trimmings, replanted, with some regrowth...

Little bucket of experiments...

Here are a couple Jack brought in from the garden. They looked kind of rough, but after peeling down the top couple of layers, they were smooth and delicious underneath...we love fresh green onions with meals!

Uses for Onion Trimmings:

The Papery Skins --

For natural dye-making. Yellow onions yield ochre and brown-toned dyes. Purple/Red onion skins yield dyes in the redder range. These are good natural dyes with vinegar or alum as the mordant. They are said to effectively dye wool. They are also used in some traditional and non-traditional ways to dye hard-boiled eggs for craft projects. I wonder how they do in paper dyeing?

The Tough Outer Skin --

The part you have to peel away because it's too tough to chop ...these are good (washed, of course) for throwing into a ziploc freezer bag along with other veggie trimmings...carrot tops, beet tops and tips...any other veggie bits to include in making soup stock later. When you have enough, it can all be boiled and then strained off after the stock is done.

Or, if you like, off to the compost pile!

The onion tops --

If they're crunchy and tender enough, they can be used like chives as spice or garnishes. If they're little green onions, leave on the part that's tender enough to be noshed on, and only trim the very tough parts off.

The toughest parts of the onion tops can be saved with other veggie trimmings for making soup stock (discarded to the compost pile after straining off the liquid), or thrown into the compost pile.

The roots --

Well, we're experimenting with simply replanting them in pots. We've not done enough to be able to tell if this will work well every time, but we've had enough survive to create little green onions, albeit rough looking ones, that can be peeled down a couple layers and trimmed to eat in-hand as an accompaniment to sandwiches, or meals like beans and cornbread...mmm!

Let me know if you use your onion trimmings in other ways, and I'll add it to the list :)


fullfreezer said...

I've never used onion skins for fabric or paper but when the children were younger and weren't as careful about checking which eggs were fresh and which were hard boiled (even though they were marked!) I used to put red onion skins in the pot with a bit of vinegar while I was boiling the eggs. It turned them a lovely pinkish tint that was easily distinguishable from the fresh eggs. It is MUCH easier than having a child accidentally try to peel a fresh egg ;-)

Robbyn said...

Judy, what a great idea...thanks! :) Makes me wonder what color it would turn brown eggs?

tina f. said...

My mom used to use onion skins to color eggs at Easter. We never bought brown eggs so I couldn't say but I'd guess if anything they'd turn darker. Anyway, the eggs we had (white ones) would turn a pretty tan, golden, and brownish as I recall.

jayedee said...

i'm impressed girl.........mine all go into the stock pot lol. i love the idea of hardcooking eggs with red onion skins though....much better than the little penciled "h" that i put on 'em! (less work for me is always good)

annette said...

I've heard of using the skins to dye easter eggs and fabrics, never tried it though.
Will definately keep the onion peices for soup stock - not something I've been very good at. How does one make stock? Store it til your ready to use?? I feel so helpless sometimes! said...

Excellent post! How wonderful! I've used goldenrod but never onion skins (much the same color, I guess). Neat!


Nola @ the Alamo said...

Terrific idea! I hate to waste "anything". My motto is: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without! I worked too hard for my money to just throw it away needlessly!