A special kind of allium bulb is an essential component of many European dishes – shallots. How to grow them is usually not someone’s first thought, but the moment they see the price on the market, growing shallot bulbs suddenly becomes much more important.
So today we are going to talk about Allium cepa, formerly known as Allium ascalonicum. This onion produces a large bulb that looks like an old onion until the outer skin is removed, after which it suddenly looks like garlic with large cloves. In each of these cloves, it suddenly looks like an onion again, with layer after layer of goodness.
Milder than onion, much milder than garlic and less likely than either to give you bad breath, you’ll find that any shallot bulb is an easy addition to your garden. And at a fraction of the price of supermarket shallots, you can include them in your regular rotation of fresh vegetables from the garden!
Quick Maintenance Guide
All About Shallots
The more subtle flavor of shallot or multiplier onions will be a great addition to your kitchen. But the plant itself is also a great addition to your garden!
Originally from Southwest or Central Asia, the popularity of this member of the onion family quickly spread to India. From there he jumped to the Mediterranean and then to the rest of the world. Rumor has it that the Phoenicians were transported from these different points by the Phoenicians,
What do shallots look like? A shallot growing in its bed can look like a bunch of young onions at a glance. But shallots, which grow as they do from a single pod, actually form a group of garlic-like bulbs in a small space. You have a bunch of green buds sprouting from the ground.
Like their other allium relatives, they can develop flower stalks, but it is much tastier to harvest the shallot leaves once they grow. The end of the scape, when ready to be harvested, has a distinctive artist’s brush shape. If left alone, the inverted droplet shape will begin to swell and turn into a round, prickly flower. But if harvested early, shallots are a fantastic bonus of growing these plants!
The tubular leaves can also be harvested and are slightly softer than a spring onion or shallot. I prefer to leave them in place because they are a great identification for when the shallot is nearing harvest time, but a few cuts early in the shallot’s life won’t harm the plant.
If your shallot blooms successfully, do not expect that you will sow seeds that it forms in a viable way. Most shallots are so abundantly crossed that they do not produce viable seeds.
Types of shallots
Although all shallots grow the same way, several variations exist. Some shallot bulbs are reddish in color, with a red to reddish brown paper exterior. Others are really brown, and still others are grayish in color.
We often call these different varieties the French Reds, the French grays or the” potato onions ” for the brownish variety. For some, gray is considered a “real shallot”, where other species are less desirable. The French are especially fond of French gray shallots for haute cuisine.
Popular varieties of French shallots to grow are Allium oschaninii or the “French gray”, considered softer and creamier in texture; Allium cepa” French red”, common in the American market;” Dutch yellow”, a” potato onion “variety with a golden yellow skin; and” Ambition”, with a distinct purple flesh and red skin.
Since the seed is rarely or never viable, planting shallots is done from seeds. These sets are dried shallot pods that are suitable for replanting, often small in size and easy to drive into the ground.
People usually plant shallots in the fall, as they are an excellent crop in cool weather. This does not mean that they can not withstand a little heat, so if you choose planting in early spring, you can also be successful. In fact, some can get two harvests with shallots planted in spring and fall, if they are in the right climate! But most often people plant their shallots from after summer to early autumn when the weather begins to change.
You need a bed that has very well drained and loose soil, filled with a lot of valuable organic matter. It should get full sun if possible, but can also tolerate shade during the hottest parts of the day.
Plant only the base of each set, with the pointed tip visible just above the soil surface. Make sure the soil is loose enough so that the plant can push it out of the way during growth! Space your plants about 6 inches apart to ensure proper bulb development. Get closer and you risk displacing the plants.
Sun and temperature
In 4-10 growth zones, shallots are easy to grow. They need full sun for better growth. In zones 9-10, a little partial shade is acceptable during the midday heat.
If you are planting an autumn crop, you may want to provide a few inches of mulch around them to protect the bulbs from the cold. This is not essential in zones 9-10, but most other zones will benefit from the added protection from the cold. Spring crops do not need the same protection from mulching in cold weather, but will benefit from the moisture retention provided by mulching.
A rich, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter is ideal for your shallots. It should have enough organic matter so that it easily retains moisture. Worm castings, well-rotted manure such as horse manure or cow dung, or vegetable compost can retain moisture so that the bulbs can access it.
Bulbs cannot grow in hard clay. Make sure your growing medium is loose when you plant. Mulch around the shallots to prevent the growth of weeds, as weeds can negatively affect the development of the bulbs.
Shallots do not need pruning. You may want to harvest some of the green tubular leaves to eat fresh, but be very selective when doing so. You should be able to see individual stems sticking out of the ground. In order for them to continue to grow to a reasonable size for harvest, no more than one leaf per stem should be removed.
Most shallots are sterile and therefore do not produce viable seeds. Since they form in cloves, planting dried cloves sold in sets is the easiest way to propagate.
Plant sets of shallots in autumn or spring. If they start to grow green, mulch around them to retain moisture and protect the bulbs from cold or excess heat.
When your shallots are ready to be harvested, the green tops will begin to sag and turn yellow. Once they have softened and turned yellow, it’s time to remove your shallots from the ground.
To harvest the shallots, take the fork of a cultivator and loosen the soil around the bulbs. They are relatively poorly rooted, so loosening the soil should not take too long. If they are 6 centimeters apart, you will be able to move on and loosen the ground for the entire row at the same time.
Dust off any remaining soil that clings to the roots and place your shallots on a tray to allow the outside to dry. Then place them in an onion bag or other well-ventilated mesh container in a cool, dark place for further drying.
Onion maggots are the larvae of the onion fly. This fly digs in most allium bulbs and in a few other bulbous plants. Where there is a maggot, there are always more, and up to 50 can consume the insides of a shallot. Beneficial nematodes will strike and eat the larvae, which will no longer be a problem for them. It is best to apply them in the spring to give them time to rid the garden of maggot larvae in the ground.
Thrips are quite common on shallots, mainly striking green leaves or flower stalks. A light spray of neem oil on the leaves should eliminate most of the problems with them.
Although it is actually only common on shallots from humid areas, after blight can become a problem. Regular applications of neem oil should keep this at bay.