Shallots are a member of the allium family, along with onions, garlic and many ornamental plants. They multiple in the ground like garlic, but have concentric rings, like onions. They also have a mild, subtle onion flavor that makes them very popular with chefs. Shallots are actually very easy to grow and their high price in the grocery store eludes me. Shallots belong to a group generally called multiplier onions and although taxonomically, there is no such thing as a true shallot, not all multiplier onions are considered shallots.
Leaves: Long, straight, blue-green, hollow and succulent.
Flowers: The white umbel allium flowers bloom on a long, stiff flower stalk that is usually removed, to provide more energy to the bulbs.
Common Name:Shallot, French Shallot, Gray Shallot, Spanish Garlic
Size:Smaller than a bulbs of garlic, but it depends on the variety and how well they grew.
Days to Harvest:
3 - 6 months. You can cut some of the green tops to use as green onions, but leave some to feed the plants.
Fall planted shallots will be ready to harvest early the following summer. Spring planted shallots should be ready in mid- to late summer, depending on the weather. As with onions, shallots will signal they are ready to be dug when their tops start to yellow and fall.
Shake off excess soil and let them sit in a dry, shady spot for a couple of weeks, to cure. You can store shallots for up to 8 months, if kept cool (35 - 45 F.)
Shallots have a mild onion/garlic flavor and can be used any in any recipe calling for onions, where you want a milder taste. They are especially good sauteed in butter and added to recipes. Shallots can also substitute for scallions or spring onions. Since shallots are mild, they are great raw or cooked.
French Gray' - Considered by most to be the only 'true' shallot and the one favored for gourmet cooking.
'French Red' Shallot - Spicy flavor and easy to peel.
- 'Frong's Leg' Shallot - Very mild. Long and elongated, like a frog's leg.
'Ambition' Shallot - Large French shallot which stores very well.
- Conservor' Shallot - Similar to 'Ambition', but larger and rounder.
Shallots can over-winter from about USDA Hardiness Zones 3 - 10, but you'll get a better quality and yield if bulbs are dug and replanted in the fall.
Exposure:Full sun to Partial Shade.
Pests & Problems:
Shallots are subject to many of the same problems as onions:
- White Rot - attacks the roots and base of the bulb. It can persist in the soil, so scallions should not be grown there again for 5-8 years.
- Neck Rot - attacks the neck and leaves of the plant. This is also soil born. Don't plant in the same area for 2 years.
- Onion Fly Larva - burrow into bulbs. Planting carrots nearby will deter them.
- Gophers - Use exclusion techniques.
Planting: You can start shallots from seed, but they rarely set seed, so they are hard to find. Shallots grown from seed will take longer to mature and will require more attention while young.
Shallots are usually grown from sets, or bulbs and are planted very much like garlic cloves. They can be planted in either the fall or spring. In warm climates, fall is better. In cool climates, get them in the ground by mid-October or wait until early spring.
Separate each bulb and plant them 4-6" apart, with the pointed end facing up. Plant them just below the soil surface. Unlike garlic, which forms a larger bulb, shallots tend to spread out a bit, into a cluster of 5 or 6, so they need more room than garlic.
Shallots prefer a rich, loose soil. Compacted soil will yield smaller bulbs. Don't mulch your shallots, but you can side dress them with organic matter in early spring.
Maintenance:Shallots need need plenty of water, throughout the growing season. Just make sure the soil is well-draining and they are not sitting - and rotting - in wet soil.
Cut back any flower stalks, to put the energy back into the bulbs. Some gardeners like to trim the leaves back by 1/3, for the same reason.
If you leave shallots in the ground, they will re-sprout, however the quality is better if they are dug and replanted. So save some of your best bulbs to replant.
Sources, outside of my garden:
- Clemson Cooperative Extension
- Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply
- Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs