How to Grow Shallots

Easy to grow, “the aristocrats of onions”, usually mild and sweet, but can be quite assertive.

Botanical Information

Taxonomy

Aggregatum Group

Allium cepa

History

  • probably native to Asia, but not known in the wild

Physical Description

Varieties & Cultivars

Categories or Types of Shallots

Shallots, multiplier onions, and potato onions, are essentially the same onion.

Differences:

  • Leaves:
    • potato onions have one group of leaves that comes out of the throat of the bulb, sheathed as one
    • shallots, on the other hand, have each leaf sheathed individually
  • Flowers:
    • shallots, although only rarely, are the only ones to flower

Varieties or Colors Available

  • Gray Shallots:
    • called the true shallot
    • standard culinary shallot
    • can become unpleasantly pungent
    • must be planted in the fall
    • likely to dry if stored through the winter
    • hot weather makes them taste fierce

Growth Requirements

Climate & Temperature Requirements

Air Temperature

Soil Temperature

Humidity

Day Length or Light Requirements

  • unlike with onions, day length is rarely a consideration with shallots

Site Conditions Favored

Soil Requirements

Soil Texture

  • well-drained – very important
  • looser soil equals bigger shallots
  • must have good drainage or the bulb will rot

pH

  • ideal: 6.0-6.8
  • very tolerant: can grow in 5.0-7.0 soils, although not ideal

Nutrient Requirements

  • shallots prefer fertile soil
  • use fully broken down compost, from either animal or vegatable sources, but no cedar or redwood
  • shallots need ample phosphorus
  • considered to be light feeders

Propagation

Methods of propagation

Seed

Bulbs

Shallot bulbs for seed stock

Shallot bulbs for seed stock

  • in very cold areas, plant in spring
  • in areas with milder winters, they can be planted in the fall
  • bulbs are direct-sown
  • separate individual bulbs if still attached at the root
  • root end goes down into the soil
  • see Bed Spacing in section below
  • water well after planting
  • plant them so the tip is level with the soil

Transplanting or Potting Up

Seed Saving

Planting Out

Bed Prep & Soil Amendments

  • turn under (or till in) fully-aged, aerobic compost with no cedar or redwood residues
  • make sure it has ample phosphorous
  • line the bed with gopher wire or hardware cloth, since gophers like shallots

Bed Spacing

Shallots planted biointensively at 4" spacing.

Shallots planted biointensively at 4″ spacing.

  • traditional: 6-8″ apart in rows 10-12″ apart
  • biointensive: 4″ apart in all directions
    • 240 bulbs (1343 plants) per 100 sq ft
  • shallot clusters spread out more than garlic bulbs, so they require more room

How to Plant

  • separate bulbs
  • larger bulbs are best for planting
  • plant them just deep enough for the tip to be level with the soil; you should be able to barely see the tip when done
  • shallot bulbs are prone to rotting, and aren’t very strong to push out of the dirt, so don’t add any mulch

Routine Cultivation & Maintenance

Water Requirements

  • water well at planting, then don’t water again until soil is dry
  • water only when soil is dry
  • in the spring once they start growing, give them 1″ water per week
  • must have good drainage or the bulb will rot
  • 1″ water per week

Fertilization Recommendations

  • in spring feed shallots with either composted manure or well-balanced fertilizer before the bulbs start growing
  • fertilize in spring with a balanced fertilizer
  • considered to be light feeders

Mulching & Weeding

  • keep them well-weeded
  • mulch is not recommended, since they are prone to rotting if the tip is covered; they aren’t strong enough to push through the mulch

Pinching or Pruning & Dividing

  • remove flower stalks so their energy goes into bulb formation
  • I don’t think the bolted bulbs need to be harvested, like with onions; just make sure to clip off the flower stalk as low as possible, as soon as possible
  • 10-20% of the leaves can be cut for cooking without decreasing yield of bulbs, when leaves become abundant

Support

  • no support or staking needed

Winterizing

Container Gardening

  • planting shallots 6″ apart in deep pots of light soil mix, with 1/4 of the bulb above soil, will give you shallot greens for cooking all winter long, and look great in a sunny spot or in a window sill. 
  • keep them moist, but not wet

Companion Planting

Helpful Companions

Harmful Companions

Companion to..

Pests, Diseases & Problems

Common Pests

  • gophers
    • wire traps
    • chicken wire or hardware cloth under the garden bed

Common Diseases

Symptoms

Whole Plant

Leaves

Stem/Trunk

Flowers

Fruit

Roots

Harvesting & Storage

Edible Parts of the Plant

Shallot Greens

  • 10-20% of the leaves can be cut for cooking without decreasing yield of bulbs, when leaves become abundant
  • some cuisines value shallots mainly for their greens
  • like scallion greens, but much more delicately flavored

Green Shallots

  • young shallots that haven’t bulbed out yet
  • like green garlic, green shallots are extraordinarily delicate and warm-tasting
  • in temperate areas, plant any sort of shallot in autumn and soon you can have green shallots for cooking

Shallot Bulb

Yield

  • 1 shallot bulb will yield 5-12 bulbs around the original bulb
  • biointensively: 
    • minimum: 60 lb./100 sq. ft
    • average: 120 lb./100 sq. ft
    • excellent: 240+ lb./100 sq. ft

Days to Harvest / Harvest Timing

  • can be harvested at any time, but for the bulb to be at its prime, wait till the green tops start dying
  • Shallots are ready when the tops start drying

Harvest Methods

  • pull up the clump and let them dry in a warm place out of sunlight with good air movement
  • sun burns them and makes them rot

Storage of harvest

Fresh

  • mesh bags in a cool dry area
  • shallots keep up to 8 months, at 35-45 degrees F

Canned

Frozen

Shallots can be frozen whole, in chunks, sliced or minced – no blanching required!

Pickled

Dried

Cooking

Nutritional Benefits & Values

Toxicity

Cooking

Preparation

Cooking Methods

Click here for Recipes

Resources

Information for this article was taken from these sources.

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