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Vegetable Growing : Shallots

Varieties | Planting | Weeding | Watering | Feeding | Harvesting

Shallots have long lived in the shadow of their larger cousin, the onion, but the shallot is not just a little onion. Botanically, it is considered a form of onion, Allium cepa var. aggregratum, that produces its bulbs in a cluster rather than individually, but it has also been accorded the status of being a separate species in the past.

The second part of the old name, Allium ascalonicum, comes from Ashkelon, a Palestinian seaport, which is the derivation of the name ‘shallot' and where the shallot was thought to have originated, though this is now discounted. It is considered to be native to tropical parts of Asia, and it grows well in hot countries.

But it is completely hardy and it is very easy to grow. Shallots love a sunny position on light, well drained soil. It is a perennial form of onion - left to its own devices it would keep on dividing at the root while some of the bulbs produced flower stalks. Unlike onion sets, which are simply little onion bulbs raised from seed, shallots produce offsets which can be used for planting the following year. It is reputed to trouble the digestion as much as onions.

Shallots are favoured for their mild onion flavour and can be used in the same manner as onions. The skin colour can vary from pale brown to pale grey to rose. The bulbs are normally used when mature but freshly pulled green shallots can be used before the crop amtures. As with garlic and onions, dry shallots are available year-round.

Varieties

 The recognised exhibition quality variety is ‘Hâtive de Niort' with perfect onion shape. The standard varieties are ‘Dutch Yellow', ‘Dutch Red' and ‘Long Keeping Yellow'. There are new varieties too such as ‘Golden Gourmet' and ‘Pikant'.

Planting

Choose a sunny spot with free drainage and plant the shallot sets in February or March. Choose large sets because these split to give a better crops of larger bulbs.

Weeding

Make sure to control weeds by hoeing or hand weeding.

Watering  

No watering is usually necessary but bulb size will be increased by giving water in dry weather.

Feeding

If the ground is reasonably rich, after potatoes for instance, no feeding is required.

Harvesting 

The green plant can be used as soon as it is large enough. When the tops start to turn yellow and flop over, the bulb clusters can be pulled up and allowed to dry out. Shallots store well, better than onions, often remaining usable into the following summer.

 

 

 

 

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