Savor Shallots

Posted: April 9, 2013

Have you ever tasted shallots? These alliums look like small onions and grow in clusters with small bulbs joined at the base as they grow...
Shallots are ready to harvest when their tops brown and die back.

Shallots are ready to harvest when their tops brown and die back.

They are quite pricy in grocery stores, but incredibly delicious. Some people describe shallots as between onions and garlic in taste, but their flavor is milder and more subtle than either of their relatives. When used in cooking, they add a depth of flavor that enhances a variety of foods.

Shallots are easy to grow from “sets” or bulbs from the previous growing season. They thrive in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. They require a well-drained soil of average fertility with a neutral pH. Raised beds provide an ideal environment.

Plant shallot sets in early to mid spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant them 1 to 2 inches deep so that the tops of the sets are just covered and about 6 inches apart. Be sure to provide adequate moisture for these shallow-rooted plants, preferably by providing drip irrigation to keep the foliage dry. Mulch to retain soil moisture and reduce competition from weeds. Fortunately, shallots are rarely bothered by pests and disease.

Like garlic, shallots can also be planted in the fall, resulting in some-what larger, tastier, and earlier bulbs. When planting in the fall, cover them with straw to protect them and reduce soil heaving during the winter months.

Shallots are ready to harvest when their tops brown and die back. When you gently lift them from the soil, you will discover that the set you planted has produced 6 to 8 new, delicious shallots. To store shallots for use throughout the year, cure them as you would onions by placing them in a sun-free location with good air movement until they are thoroughly dried. Store them in mesh bags or by tying them in bunches and hanging them in a cool location.

Select the best sets to use for planting again in the fall or early spring. A small quantity of shallot sets purchased eight years ago continues to provide us abundant harvests.

Article contributed by Mary Ann Miller, Luzerne County Master Gardener