Shallots: How to Grow Shallots
I absolutely love to cook. Naturally, as I explore various cuisines, my kitchen needs to be always stocked with a wide array of herbs, spices and vegetables.
Stemming from this passion, my mind was opened to the idea of gardening and growing some of my own ingredients. One of the first few vegetables that I tried to grow was shallots.
In this article, I will share with you all the expertise I have gained from propagating my own shallots. Read on, learn and be inspired.
A shallot is a small bulb-like vegetable that looks very similar on the outside to its more popularly known relative, the onion. Shallots just have thinner peels compared to onions, but cutting them can make your eyes water just the same. However, once you cut it open, you will see that instead of rings like that of the onion, it has cloves just like its other close relative, the garlic.
Not only do shallots share a close appearance with its onion and garlic cousins, it is also quite the same in terms of taste except that shallots have a milder flavor than onion with a hint of garlic.
Aside from onions and garlic, shallots are also within the same family group of leeks, scallions and chives.
The botanical name for shallots is “allium cepa” and it has also been dubbed as the “gourmet onion” and “multiplier onion”.
Facts About Shallots
Shallots are believed to have originated from Southwest or Central Asia. In fact, the term “shallot” came from Ashkelon, one of the earliest cities of Canaan.
Shallots are tough plants that are ideally grown biennially but are usually kept annually by its growers.
Should you be planning to keep a garden with a wide assortment of other plants, take note that shallots may be grown together near:
- Summer savory
Shallots are not compatible with peas and beans and thus should not be planted together. Also, even if shallots are related to garlic, they must not be planted on soil where garlic was grown previously.
If you are quite short in planting space, shallots may also be grown in 8-inch pots. A pot this size can accommodate up to 2 cloves. The advantage of planting in pots is that should there be a sudden shift to a warmer weather, you can easily move your shallots to a cooler spot.
In ensuring that your shallots grow healthy, you can rest assured that they do not really have any concerns with being bothered by pests. Care, however, must be taken that they do not be overpowered by weeds in getting the right soil nutrition and water. You may also opt to shield the plots with garden netting so as to prevent birds from plucking out the cloves.
Shallot plants grow between 8 to 24 inches in height. In terms of width, they go from 6 to 12 inches.
Do you know why it is important to track how tall your growing shallot plant is? Here’s another gardening tip -- Once the stem reaches 16 inches, bend them and it will trigger the faster growing of the shallot bulbs. Who would have thought, right?
Shallot leaves are small and short and cylindrical in shape.
The shallot bulb skin may appear to be gray, copper or reddish. The bulbs grow in clusters from the plant base.
The shallot plant also has flowers that are usually red or lavender.
Shallots come in several types. Here is a brief about each variety:
Pikant shallots are red in color inside but have a mahogany skin. This variety can be harvested in 80 days. The Pikant variety is ideal if you won’t use your shallots immediately because they store well.
Saffron shallots are yellow on the inside with a copper-coloured skin. This variety matures in 100 days. The Saffron variety also stores well like the Pikant.
The Matador variety has a white flesh with reddish-brown skin and is round in shape. This kind is fully grown in 90 days and can be grown even from the seed.
The Ambition variety is cream coloured on the inside and reddish copper in colour on the outside. Ambition shallot is tear-shaped. This type is ready to harvest in 100 days.
The Prisma variety can be recognized by its thick, smooth and shiny skin and its being red in color both inside and out. This variety can also be grown from seed like the Matador and is ready for harvest in 100 days. Prisma shallots have a sharper taste compared to the other kinds of shallots.
Bonilla shallots are hay-coloured on the outside but white inside. This type fully develops in 100 to 105 days. Like the Prisma variety, the Bonilla shallots also have the stronger taste among the shallot varieties.
Olympus shallots are quite small with its bulb measuring to just 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter. This white-coloured both on the inside and out shallot variety matures in 90 days.
The Griselle shallot is elongated in shape to about 4 inches long. This kind is white purplish on the inside and brownish gray on the outside. The Griselle also has a sharp flavor like the Bonilla and Prisma. This type of shallot has the longest harvest time at 200 days and yet, once harvested, will not store for long like the other varieties.
How to Grow Shallots
Soil conditions that are perfect for growing shallots are:
- Ability to drain well - when soil does not drain well, white rot may destroy your shallots. White rot can be observed as white growth on leaves. Once white rot occurs, they can no longer be reversed. Affected plants must simply be removed.
- Well moisturized
- Rich in organic matter content - this may be helped by adding aged compost to the soil before planting. Compost may also be added mid-season.
- With PH of 5 to 6.8
Shallots can still grow even in clay soil. However, note that they will bear less flavourful bulbs if they were planted in clay.
Aside from the right soil base, a good tip I would like to share with budding growers is that when shallots are planted during fall, the soil must be topped up with around 4 to 6 inches layer of mulch or compost for protection since shallots are planted very near the soil surface and have shallow roots.
If the shallots were planted in spring, they would also benefit from adding a mulch or compost layer but at thinner capacity of 1 to 2 inches. The mulch/ compost may be thinned out little by little as the weather warms.
Shallots will grow best in a spot with full sun light. However, since they are hardy plants that are not overly sensitive to strict growing conditions, they will still prosper being planted in an area with partial sun light.
Temperature & Humidity
Shallots grow best in cool temperature. It is ideal that their cloves be planted around four to six weeks before the end of frost. Specifically, shallots will thrive in a soil temperature ranging between 2 to 32 degrees Celsius.
Shallots need adequate and even moisture to live. Their soil must never be allowed to dry out. However, overly watering them will also cause the cloves or the growing plant to decay.
Shallots grow best when given abundant supply of nitrogen.
Fertilizing may be started 3 weeks after planting by pouring liquid fish emulsion on the soil. This may be repeated after every 3 to 4 weeks and stopped only 4 weeks prior to harvest or when the necks start to feel soft.
If you have some prior experience with raising one of the plant family groups of the shallot, you will find that planting them is quite similar to that of the garlic.
Because healthy shallots and a bountiful harvest starts from the quality of the cloves you plant, I suggest that you start with purchasing shallot sets from a trusted grower or supplier. This is ideal. However, planting cloves from shallots purchased from your regular grocery or market is not really so bad, either.
Shallots are grown by planting their cloves instead of seeds. To plant, the broad end of the cloves must be pressed down on the soil with the pointed ends facing up. The cloves then must be covered with soil a mere 1/2 inch deep in such a way that the tops are still visible.
The cloves must not also be buried bunched together. They should be planted in rows that are 10 inches apart, then each clove must have a 6 to 8 inch gap within the same row.
Once done, the shallot plots or pots must be thoroughly watered through just so that the soil is wet but not drowning. Should the thin layer of soil wash off because of the watering, thus exposing the cloves too much, diligence must be exercised to re-cover them just enough.
Shallot bulbs are ready to be harvested in just a relatively short 60 to 120 days. You’ll know that the bulbs are ripe for harvest once the leaves of the plant turn yellow and fall off. The bulb will also have a paper-like skin.
To harvest, you simply need to uproot the entire shallot plant, then carefully remove the soil off.
Once harvested, the bulbs must be allowed to dry for a month.
As for the leaves of the shallot plant, they may be continuously harvested one month after the shallots have been planted then throughout the plant’s life afterwards. Prudence must just be exercised not to cut away new growths near the main stem.
Learning how to transplant your shallots is crucial if you are living in areas that have wet winters. If shallots are planted outside under this condition, they have a high chance of rotting before they can even proliferate.
The workaround this challenge in the weather is correct transplanting. When done right, your shallots may be transferred from indoors to outdoors once the weather is favourable without hurting the roots or shocking the plant.
Here are the steps:
- Sow shallot cloves in a biodegradable or plantable pot.
- Place the pots by a window that receives full sunlight and aim for a temperature in that part of your house of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Water adequately once the soil feels dry and be sure to empty the drip trays after each watering.
- Two weeks before the last frost date, slowly start to acclimate the plants to the outdoors. This is done by moving the pots to a protected outdoor spot for just two to three hours during the first acclimation day. Gradually increase the time the pots stay outdoors daily aiming that they are able to stay outdoors overnight by day 7.
- Before the actual transplant, add a 2 inch layer of compost to the garden bed. Incorporate the compost into the soil up to 6 inches deep.
- Dig holes into the prepared garden bed that are around the same depth as the plantable pots but are slightly wider. Ensure that the holes dug are at least 6 inches apart each other.
- Bury the plantable pots making sure that it is covered all the way up to the rim.
Shallots Health Benefits
Nutritionally speaking, a 100g portion or around 10 tablespoons of chopped shallots will give you the following values:
- Calories - 75
- Folate - 9% of daily value
- Zinc - 4% of daily value
- Protein - 2.5g
- Potassium - 7% of daily value
- Carbohydrates - 17g
- Phosphorus - 5% of daily value
- Fiber - 3g
- Magnesium - 5% of daily value
- Calcium - 3% of daily value
- Iron - 7% of daily value
That’s quite a lot of nutrition packed in a mere 100 grams, right? In fact, shallots have more nutritional value than onions.
Aside from the nutritional value of eating shallots, let’s do a rundown of its other health benefits:
First off, if you have a family history of cancers or simply want to look and feel younger, you’d be pleased to know that shallots contain a compound called “allicin”. When shallots are crushed or cut up as is usually done when cooking, it releases powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants wash away toxins from the body to help keep cancers, heart diseases and diabetes at bay. Plus, it promotes vitality and youth!
Second, shallots contain quercetin. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine that fights off symptoms such as itchiness, tissue swelling and watery eyes related to seasonal allergies, allergic asthma and bronchitis. Quercetin is so potent in giving relief to these conditions that it is commonly used as an active ingredient in a lot of allergy medications.
Third, shallots have organosulfur compounds. This compound has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. These properties are effective in fighting against flu, colds, fever and cough.
To demonstrate this efficacy, a study reported that applying 0.5% of shallot extract solution to cold sores greatly shortened their presence in the body.
Furthermore, a mouth rinse of shallot extract mixed with water was seen to be more effective than the medicinal disinfectant chlorhexidine at reducing bacteria in the mouth of up to a day.
Fourth, shallots contain compounds that promote overall healthy circulation. One of these compounds is thiosulfinates. Thiosulfinate prevents the formation of bad blood clots. Another compound is allicin. Allicin reduces stiffness in blood vessels, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
Fifth, compounds in shallots help lower total body fat percentage therefore promoting healthy weight.
Sixth, compounds in shallots help lower blood sugar and insulin resistance.
What Is the Difference Between Shallots and Onions?
Shallots and onions belong to the same plant family group and naturally share a lot of common characteristics. The key differences between them are:
- Shallots have thinner skin than onions
- Shallots have cloves instead of rings
- Shallots have milder taste than onions
Uses of Shallots
Shallots have a wide array of culinary uses as both the underground and above the ground parts may be eaten.
Green leaves may be used as seasoning. They may be used as green onions alternative or in place of chives.
As for the bulb, here are some ways they can be incorporated into your recipes:
- Cloves may be roasted and added into dips
- Shallots may be grilled as add on to sticks of tofu, vegetables and other meats
- Chopped shallots adds flavor to quiches, stir-fries and soups
- Diced shallots make a good sprinkle over pasta dishes, salads and bruschetta
- Shallots are a good addition to pizzas
- Minced shallots give a good kick to dressings
When storing the shallot bulbs in your kitchen or pantry, they can be kept much like onions. They will stay good for up to six months if kept in a cool and dry storage. As for the shallot greens, they can last up to a week if chopped then refrigerated, similar to how chives are kept.
Not only are shallots a hit with chefs and food enthusiasts, they are also a must-have in homes because of the following natural medicinal uses:
First, shallots aid in hair growth. This is because shallots are rich in sulphur that promotes good collagen tissues production. To get this benefit, chop shallots into small bits, squeeze out the juice and apply to the scalp. Leave it on for 15 minutes then wash off with a mild shampoo.
Second, shallots are rich in iron. Iron helps build up the blood components to fight off anemia. Consuming just a cup of shallots provides 11% of the daily requirement for women and 24% for men.
Third, shallots are rich in the mineral potassium. A 3.5 ounce serving of shallots contain a good 334 mg of potassium, equivalent to 10% of the daily requirement. Potassium helps keep the body’s fluid balance as well as maintain a level heartbeat.
Fourth, eating shallots produces anticoagulants in the body. Anticoagulants thins out the blood. This is beneficial for those suffering from stroke, cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerotic disease and heart attack.
Fifth, shallots are rich in folate. Folate is good for achieving overall brain health. Aside from folate, it also contains a compound called pyrithione. Pyrithione prevents brain inflammaton as well as heighten neurological activity. Some studies even claim that shallots aid against Alzheimer’s disease.
Sixth, consuming shallots daily boosts bone health. Research shows that pre and postmenopausal women who maintain shallots as part of their daily diet have a 5% higher bone density rate than those who don’t.
This article talks about all you need to know about shallots in an easy to digest way. Whether you’re reading up on shallots as a budding gardener, an adventurous foodie or for research, this article got you covered.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are shallots?
Shallots is a vegetable that belongs to the same plant family group as onions and garlic among others.
What do shallots look like?
Shallots look quite similar to onions except that it has a thinner skin and has cloves instead of rings
What does shallots taste like?
Shallots taste like a milder version of onion with a hint of garlic.