Growing Shallots

Shallots are a delicious addition to many dishes, including soups and salads. They also enhance the flavor of meats, particularly beef. For any dish in which you would use onions, shallots can be substituted to provide a subtler, more nuanced onion-like flavor.

UPON RECEIPT: If you can't plant immediately, store shallots in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area.

PREPARING THE SOIL: In early spring when the ground is suitable for planting, begin by preparing your soil. Shallots are best grown in a fertile and well-balanced soil. Organic gardeners should work in rich, finished compost. Spread lime if your soil is too acidic. If you use commercial fertilizer (we recommend 10-20-10), make trenches 3in deep, distribute 1/2 cup of fertilizer per 10 linear feet of row and cover with 2in of soil.

HOW TO PLANT: Plant the shallots with the root side down, about 6in apart. The tops of the shallots should be about 1in below the soil. Shallots are shallow-rooted plants, and proper watering is important -- don't overwater and cause them to rot, but don't let them wilt for lack of moisture, either.

FERTILIZING: Shallots require a lot of nitrogen. Give plants a supplemental feeding of liquid fish emulsion or other fertilizer about 3 weeks after planting; continue to fertilize every 3-4 weeks thereafter. Stop feeding once the necks start feeling soft, about 4 weeks before harvest. If you use a dry granular fertilizer, water it in well.

WATERING: Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season.

WEED CONTROL: It is important to control weeds around your plants. Start handweeding or hoeing as soon as weeds begin to appear. Be careful not to damage the bulbs. A light organic mulch helps control weeds and preserve moisture. Pull the mulch back when the plants are beginning to bulb up.

HARVESTING: Shallots should be harvested when most of the foliage dries and falls over. They can stay in the soil as long as temperatures remain below 85-90 degrees F. Once harvested, shallots should be placed in a well-ventilated area in the shade (such as a garage) for 2-3 weeks until the foliage dries completely. Then cut off the tops about 1in above the bulb. Store shallots spread out in a thin layer or in mesh bags in a cool (40-50°F), dry place with good air circulation.