Growing Shallots is Easy for a Kitchen Gardener

Growing Shallots is Easy for a Kitchen Gardener
Growing Shallots is Easy for a Kitchen Gardener

Greeks and Romans both called the shallot the Ascalonian onion and it is thought that they originally came from Ascalon in Palestine.Together with ordinary onions and garlic they belong to the Alliaceae family. They all need the same type of growing conditions, namely an open, sunny site and they share a dislike for acid soil so liming may be necessary to bring the pH to 7.0 or more.

Growing Shallots is Easy for a Kitchen Gardener

Main Types of Shallots

The mild onion flavour of shallots can vary from region to region and according to variety. There are three main kinds:-

The type the French call ‘Eschalote Grise’ (Echalion shallots) which are longish, grey skinned and fashionable with celebrity chefs. The variety ‘Jermor’ is one such shallot.
The pinkish-red ones including the varieties ‘Picasso’ and ‘Pikant’.
Bronze skinned yellowish varieties which keep well such as Red Sun, Topper and Springfield.

Growing Shallots From Sets

Shallot sets are immature bulbs used by most gardeners because they quickly produce mature bulbs, are better in colder regions and less likely to be attacked by pests and diseases than shallots grown from seed.

Sets can be planted from October to mid-December and also from mid-February to mid-March. Plant them 15cm apart in rows 23cm apart.
Gently push the sets into soft recently cultivated soil so as to leave the tip just showing. Birds can lift sets out of the ground and these need putting back in.
Those planted before Christmas are better placed 2-3cm below the surface.

Growing Shallots From Seed

In recent years shallot seed has become available, but growing shallots this way demands more skill. ‘Ambition’ and ‘Matador’ are both good F1 hybrid varieties.

Sow shallot seed from March to May in 1.5cm deep drills with 30cm between the rows.
Thin seedlings to 5cm apart.
Each seed becomes a shallot so there is no need to break them up at harvest time.
In cold areas it is best to sow seeds in cell trays indoors and germinate in an electric propagator. Be sure to harden them off gradually before planting in the kitchen garden.

Caring for Shallots

Water in dry weather and apply a light dressing of sulphate of potash to those grown from sets in June. This helps ripen the bulbs and improves storage life. To conserve moisture and suppress weeds put a mulch on the soil surface. Remove any flower spikes which appear. Once the bulbs have swollen remove the mulch to expose them to the sun for ripening.

Harvesting Shallots

With shallots which are grown from sets the foliage will start to turn yellow in July. Lift the cluster of bulbs, separate them and dry them off. Shallots grown from seed will be ready to harvest in September.

Extend the Onion Season With Shallots

Easy to grow shallots can bridge the gap between the last of the stored onions and the first fresh ones of summer.

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Ken Wells