Crop experiment: Growing shallots

Have you ever grown shallots? I haven’t, but I’ve just ordered my first sets to plant this fall. I love the way they taste, so I’m excited to try them.

Shallots (Allium cepa var. aggregatum) are botanically related to onions and garlic. They are native to Central Asia and have a very mild, delicate onion flavor that is wonderful in salads and egg dishes. They grow like garlic, forming clusters of offsets (small bulbs that form off the main bulb). Inside the bulb, shallots are layered like onions.

I’m growing French gray shallots (Allium oschaninii), which some consider to be the “true” shallot, and French red shallots, the ones most often found in grocery stores and markets. The red shallots are supposed to be easier to grow, but the gray ones allegedly have better flavor. The red shallots grow larger; the grey produce prolifically.

Like other root crops, they like well draining soil amended with lots of organic matter. My raised beds should suit them very well, as they contain equal parts composted manure, decomposed bark, and washed sand. I’ll perform a soil test before planting to make sure the pH is appropriate. I cannot plant them until mid-October, but if I wait until then to order them, they won’t be available. I made that mistake last year.

What crops are you trying out in your fall garden this year?


8 thoughts on “Crop experiment: Growing shallots

  1. Let me know how they turn out. Where did you order them? Have you tried growing garlic? My experiments with garlic didn’t turn out well. Kit

    • I will. I ordered some from Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds and some from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I grew garlic last year, also from Southern Exposure, and had pretty good results despite the fact that I didn’t care for it particularly well. Hoping for even better results now that I have some experience.

    • Do you have a balcony, or even a bright window? You’d be surprised at what you can grow in an apartment. I lived for six years in an apartment in Chicago with a northeast facing window and a large closet. While the window was fine for low-light houseplants, the closet got a fluorescent light and I grew all sorts of (legal, thank you) things.

      • I have been experimenting with the basics like tomatoes and herbs but they struggle with the winds and harsh ocean front conditions. I think it’s mainly over watering or under watering that ends up killing them 😦 I have Yucca plants on the balconies that are thriving. Not nice to eat though.

      • I imagine the tomatoes and broad-leaved herbs might be desiccated by the winds. If yuccas are doing well, maybe try Opuntias (prickly pear cactus)? Those are edible (eat the young, tender pads) and are said to make a great salsa. I often see them in my natural-foods market and in Mexican markets, but I haven’t yet tried them.

        Have you tried herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, or savory? Herbs with narrow leaves and/or ones from Mediterranean climates should do well if you are on the ocean. Narrow leaves don’t dry out as quickly in harsh winds.

      • Thanks for the tips. I will try some narrow leaf herbs as you have suggested. The prickly pear sound interesting. I will keep an eye out for them at the markets.

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