In­gre­di­ents also make for nice kitchen dec­o­ra­tions

Pawtucket Times - - HOME & GARDEN - By BAR­BARA DAMROSCH

Onions are an easy crop, one that doesn't re­quire much at­ten­tion. Water and weed – that's about it. But to­ward the end of sum­mer, you need to watch them to see whether they've flopped. When the leaves lie down in the row, it means the bulbs have stopped grow­ing and are ready for har­vest.

When this hap­pens, check the weather. It's best to pull onions dur­ing a sunny spell. Sim­ply lift them and lay the whole plants on the ground in tidy rows to dry out and cure. The idea is to let the tops turn brown, all the way down to the bulbs, so that the necks will tighten and seal the bulb against de­te­ri­o­ra­tion. A brief shower is harm­less, but if gen­uine rain is com­ing, bring them un­der cover to fin­ish the job. Spread them on a floor, ta­ble or screen in a place that's well ven­ti­lated and dry.

Soft-neck gar­lic can be har­vested like onions. Hard­neck gar­lic is pulled when the tops start to brown but there are still about six green leaves on top. Bring both un­der cover right away to dry and cure.

New onions and gar­lic can be eaten im­me­di­ately and are out­stand­ing when fresh, but their main virtue is that they last many months in stor­age. An ideal space is dark, cold and frost-free, but not moist like a root cel­lar.

Like many cooks, though, I don't feel se­cure un­less I have a work­ing stash of onions and gar­lic within easy reach. In the kitchen, there's al­ways a bucket, bin or bas­ket – any­thing that works, but never the fridge, where too much mois­ture might make them rot.

You can also treat them as a kitchen dis­play. This con­cept ap­peals to any­one who likes rus­tic kitchen decor, but even if the theme is stain­lesssteel mod­ern, the sight of onions and gar­lic in a kitchen gives one a feel­ing that the cook cares about fla­vor and that the up­com­ing meal will not be bland. (You might have al­ready sensed that upon en­ter­ing, from the pun­gent aroma of a bub­bling pot.)

Hang­ing food pantries are pic­turesque, es­pe­cially if your kitchen ceil­ing has ex­posed beams from which to sus­pend them, but they have lim­i­ta­tions. Ris­tras of dried red chiles look gor­geous at first, be­fore they lose color from too much light. So do bun­dles of up­side-down herbs, which, if too close to the ac­tion, crum­ble from the care­less swish of a tea towel. Both gather dust.

But none of that hap­pens to onions and gar­lic, which are neatly pro­tected by their skins. So you can braid their tops to form a tidy hang­ing col­umn and snip off one at a time as needed.

Bar­bara Damrosch/Washington Post

Hard-neck gar­lic from the au­thor's gar­den is dis­played in a tall con­tainer. If you grow soft-neck gar­lic, you can braid it and hang it from the kitchen ceil­ing, a tech­nique that works for onons as well.

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