If I were to sum up this summer, I’d say we’re still waiting for its beginning as it already signals its end: nights have been cooling down and storage crops like garlic, onions and potatoes are nearing harvest. We dug our garlic this week and it now hangs drying in the woodshed. I’d characterize the bulbs as average in size, but firm and healthy.

Tops of the keeper onions have all flopped over, indicating that the bulbs are no longer adding growth. If you’re eager to harvest and you bend over the tops, the bulbing process will also stop. This year, for some reason the tops of the sweeter, juicier Ailsa Craigs, which are huge and sweet but only keep for a couple of months in storage, are still upright, so we’ll let them go for a few more weeks and dig the keepers.

To harvest onions, dig them out of the ground using a fork on a nice dry day (should there be such an anomaly). If the weather were hot and dry, the bulbs could be left on the soil surface to dry in the sun for a week, but with the continued unsettled forecast, we opt to bring them onto a screened porch and lay them out to dry.

In order to store onions you need to cure them. You can dry them on racks or on layers of newspaper in a greenhouse, shed, hoop house or cold frame. In the past I’ve spread them in an open-fronted woodshed, laying them out on old window screens that I rescued from the town recycling center just for this purpose, but leaving them in place on the screened porch also works well. Wherever you decide to let them cure, spread the onions out as much as possible and make sure there is plenty of circulating air to wick away moisture and to prevent mold or rotting. The onions may take a further two weeks to dry out and are ready to store when the skins are papery, the leaves are completely shriveled up, and the roots are wiry and dry.

At this stage you should trim off the roots and remove any loose skin. If you want to store your bulbs as onion strings, cut the stems to within two or three inches of the neck of the bulb (more about this technique below); if you want to braid the tops, leave them intact. Otherwise, cut the stems to the neck and place them in a mesh bag, then hang the bag in a cool, dark, dry place. A root cellar is the ideal spot, but an unfinished basement or basement stairwell works well. ­Any cool, dark place that allows air circulation will keep moisture from your stored crop.

Onion strings or braids are my favorite way to display onions, even if it’s just a few to hang in the kitchen for immediate consumption. In the past I’ve used the dried leaves just as one would use hanks of hair to make a French braid. Start with three of your biggest onions and tie them together with twine. Place one onion right in the middle of the first three, along with the twine, and braid it three times, just like hair. Bring two more onions into your braid, laying one on the left, one on the right. Make sure their stalks line up with the other left and right stalks, then braid three times. Repeat with a single onion in the middle, then two more onions on the sides, braiding between each addition and including the twine as you go. It’s similar to making a French-braid, where you add new strands throughout the braiding process. When your braid is long enough, add a single bulb in the middle, braid a few more times, then tie off with the twine, leaving a loop for hanging.



Another way to create a string of onions is to cut the necks off as mentioned above. Cut a four-foot length of twine and tie the two ends together to form a loop, then hang the loop from a hook to begin working. Insert the first onion through the center of the loop then bend the stem around the back of the string to return it through the loop. Push the onion right down to the bottom of the loop to anchor it into position. Now begin working in additional onions the same way, placing the stem through the loop, weaving it around the back of the string and returning it back through the loop and pushing down to sit snugly against the previous onion. Rotate the position of each additional onion so they sit in a spiral. Hang your completed string where you can cut the onions as needed, taking them from the top of the string rather than the bottom.

Because the weather has remained so cool, our second planting of spinach is still flourishing, even as we bring the onions in, so we have materials to make this tasty pizza.

B A C O N ,   S P I N A C H   A N D   O N I O N   P I Z Z A

1 pizza dough, homemade or store-bought
12 lb. bacon, cooked and chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
8 oz. spinach
2 large onions, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. butter
2 large cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. flour
34 cup milk
6 oz. shredded mozzarella
2 oz. shredded Parmesan
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet, add spinach and saute until wilted. Transfer to several layers of paper towels, squeeze excess liquid from spinach and set aside. Add another Tbsp. olive oil to skillet, add onions and saute 10 minutes. Add sugar and cook until they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes longer, adding a few tablespoons water as needed to prevent them from drying and burning. Stir in balsamic vinegar and cook one minute longer, then set aside.

Shape pizza dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, leaving a rim around edge of dough for crust. Brush with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and let rest 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, one minute. While whisking, slowly pour milk into flour mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring mixture just to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Spread white sauce evenly over pizza, leaving crust uncoated. Top with half of the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan, then add spinach, bacon and onions. Top with remaining half of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Transfer pizza on parchment paper to a pizza pan or preheated pizza stone and bake in preheated oven 11 to 13 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden.