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June 5, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Discover: Shallots

  • Prized by chefs for their mild flavour shallots have another big advantage over onions in that they store for longer, nine months is common and a year if kept in good conditions, so covering any gap when the stored onions have gone over.
  • You can get shallot seed but they are normally grown from sets. 
  • Shallots grow into a small clump of bulbs joined at the base.
  • Shallots are very similar in their needs to normal onions. Prepare the soil by raking in a couple of ounces per square yard of general purpose fertiliser like fish, blood & bone or Growmore.
  • If planted really early then a second dose of fertiliser will carry them through well.
  • Traditionally they are planted, like garlic, on the shortest day to harvest on the longest but in reality they can go in as late as the end of March and still produce a respectable crop.
  • Plant carefully, like an onion set, just into the soil with the tops visible. Don’t just push them in, unless you have very light soil. Scrape a depression and move the soil back over them.
  • Plant about 6″ to 8″ (15cm-20cm) apart each way and after that there is little to do apart from weed until the leaves turn yellow and they’re ready to harvest.
  • Apart from some weeding, there is little to do. Do be careful not to damage the forming bulbs when hoeing. Better to have a few weeds or get on your knees and weed by hand than hoe out the crop before you start!
  • Shallots are subject to the same problems as onions, with a tendency to bolt in hot summers but are generally easy enough to grow.
  • Shallots are harvested as a clump with the individual bulbs in a ring. There is no need to split them apart until you come to use them.
  • Lift directly using a fork if need be and leave them in rings, although some will break off of their own accord. As with onions, allow to dry out and then pop into a string bag and keep in a cool dark place.
  • Shallots store very well and 12 months isn’t unusual. They can fill the gap when the stored onions run out before the new crop arrives because of this.
  • Shallot sets bought mail order or online tend to be expensive due to transport costs but the shops offer very few varieties. Growing a speciality crop for flavour, it could well be worth spending a little more for the flavour you wish to enjoy.
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