Shallots are a member of the allium family, along with onions, garlic, and many ornamental plants. They multiply in the ground like garlic, but have concentric rings, like onions. They are smaller than bulbs of garlic, but it depends on the variety and how well they grew. They also have a mild, subtle onion flavor that makes them very popular with chefs. Shallots are actually very easy to grow, despite their high price in grocery stores. 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.
|Botanical Name||Allium ascalonicum|
|Common Names||Shallot, French shallot, gray shallot, Spanish garlic|
|Mature Size||1 to 2 feet tall with a spread of 6 inches to 1 foot.|
|Sun Exposure||Full to partial|
|Native Area||Central or Southwest Asia|
How to Grow Shallots
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 to 6 inches 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.
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.
For best results, grow your shallots in full sun. If that's not possible, shallots can tolerate partial shade.
Shallots 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 a third, for the same reason.
Temperature and Humidity
Cloves can be planted four to six weeks before the last frost, as they require a dormant period of about a month with temperatures between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Shallots can thrive in soil temperatures from 35 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. So long as they are regularly watered and kept in well-drained soil they are not particularly humidity-sensitive.
Shallots prefer 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.
Varieties of Shallots
- 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.
- Frog's Leg Shallot: Very mild. Long and elongated, like a frog's leg.
- 'Ambition' Shallot: Large French shallot which stores very well.
- Conservator' Shallot: Similar to 'Ambition' but larger and rounder.
Common Pests and Diseases
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 to 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
Shallots are ready to harvest in three to six 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 eight months if kept cool (35 to 45 F.)
Culinary Uses for Shallots
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.