With Easter approaching, a curious dynamic is taking shape in the Swiss fruit and vegetable markets: onions peels now cost more than whole onions (also including peel).
But why does this demand for onion skins, and what does Easter have to do with it? The explanation is soon told: the skins are used to colour the eggs. Coloured hard-boiled eggs are an Easter tradition spread all over the world: but while many resort to artificial colourings, in Switzerland there’s the tradition of using natural ingredients to colour eggs.
In particular, the onion skins must be boiled (when the water is already boiling), left to boil 15 minutes, then a tablespoon of white vinegar is added (which would help to fix the colour), and then allowed to cool. The result is an excellent natural dye to have beautiful orange eggs. Other natural ingredients include red beets for pink eggs, or cabbage for a blue dye.
Returning to the case of onion skins, the tradition would also make use of advanced skins and put aside in the weeks leading up to Easter, but apparently in Switzerland this would not happen, and many choose instead to buy the skins only, to use then to colour the eggs. This means that an 85g bag of onion skins is sold for 2.80 Swiss francs: this means 33 francs per kg for the skins, compared to 2.80 per kg for whole onions. This has intrigued many foreign tourists, who could not understand how such a thing was possible.
Apart from the question of the selling price, the case makes us reflect on the idea of ”natural” that is spreading: it is really more “natural” to buy only the skins (with the rest of the onions used we don’t know how), which to use an artificial dye?