Common name: shallot Botanical name: Allium cepa Origin: Asia
Few varieties are available; grow the variety available in your area.
The shallot is a very hardy biennial grown as an annual, and it's a member of the onion family. It's believed that French knights returning from the
Crusades introduced them to Europe, and that De Soto brought them to America in 1532. Shallot plants grow about eight inches tall in a clump, with narrow green leaves, and look very much like small onions; they're favorites with gourmets. The roots are very shallow and fibrous, and the bulbs are about a half inch in diameter when mature. The small bulbs have a more delicate flavor than regular onions. Use the young outer leaves like chives.
Where and when to grow
Shallots are easy to grow and very hardy. You can grow them anywhere in the United States from cloves planted early in spring.
How to plant
Shallots can be grown in any soil but may have less flavor when they're grown in clay soils. Shallots are very shallow-rooted plants and need little soil preparation. Although they prefer full sun, they'll survive in partial shade. Shallots seldom form seed, so they're usually grown from cloves, which should be planted four to six weeks before your average date of last frost. When you're preparing the soil for planting, work in a complete, well-balanced fertilizer at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet or 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Plant the cloves six to eight inches apart in rows 12 inches apart, and set them so that the tops of the cloves are even with the soil, but no deeper. Keep them carefully cultivated when they're small; the shallow root systems don't like to compete with weeds.
Fertilize before planting and again at midseason, at the same rate as the rest of the garden. Detailed information on fertilizing is given in "Spadework: The Essential Soil" in Parti.
Water the shallots regularly; do not allow the soil to dry out.
Shallots have no serious pest problems.
Shallots have no serious disease problems.
Cut the green shallot leaves throughout the growing season, but be careful not to cut away any new growth coming from the central stem. Dig up bulbs when the tops wither and fall over.
Store shallots in the refrigerator for up to one week or store the bulbs like onions in a cold, dry place for two to eight months. You can also freeze or dry them like onions. The greens can be chopped and frozen like chives. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Shallots have a delicate flavor and are less overpowering than many onions. They're very good stirred into sour cream as a dressing for vegetables or fish, or chopped and added to an oil-and-vinegar dressing for salads. Use the small bulbs in the classic French beef stew, boeuf bourguignonne.
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