Some people have fruit bowls. I have a lemon bowl.

Lemons
Vesna Jovanovic / EyeEm

Do you feel naked if you leave the house without your watch on? That’s how I feel when there are no lemons in my kitchen. A big white porcelain bowl sits on my kitchen counter with the sole purpose of holding lemons. When the bowl is empty, something just seems off. The lemons are as constant as the magnets on the refrigerator, the container of wooden spoons and cooking tools, the little dish of salt that sits next to the stovetop.

I don’t just keep lemons around for decoration—that would be wildly extravagant, they are pricey! That mood-lifting splash of sunny yellow is just a bonus, and why I store them on the countertop where I can see them. If I have fresh lemons, kosher salt, black pepper, and olive oil, I can always pull together a meal. If I also have some garlic and fresh herbs kicking around, then we’re really in business.

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I also store them on the counter because fresh lemon goes into almost everything I cook. It’s such a versatile ingredient, and usually the missing element of a lackluster dish. You know when you taste a recipe and it needs a little “something” but you can’t quite figure out what. Chances are, it’s acid. Even a few drops of lemon juice can add much-needed brightness to bland food, or cut through the richness of a fatty dish, balance out sweetness in desserts, or help amplify and marry the rest of the ingredients. And if all else fails, there's always fresh lemon for sweet tea and lemonade.

I go through anywhere from four to six lemons a week, but if you’re not an acid fiend like me, you should probably store your lemons in the refrigerator. Refrigerating the fruit can extend its life by days, or even weeks. But if lemons are a must-have in your kitchen too, you can feel good about keeping them out in plain sight. Keeping a bowl of lemons on your counter might inspire you to cook with lemon more often, which is usually a good thing.