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?

Before the freeze

It’s going to get really cold tonight (for here), and possibly snow a bit, though not enough for the kids to miss school (hurrah!). The schools often cancel classes at the slightest suggestion of snow, so I’m proud of them for holding off. For now.

A bag of garlic sits on my kitchen counter, patiently waiting for me to plant it.   Unfortunately, I don’t have ground prepared properly for it, and life, as it so often does, reprioritized things for me so that I never got the containers I planned to use to grow it.  I am interested in companion planting and in mixing ornamentals and vegetables in the same garden beds, though, so I ran out as it began to almost-sleet to pop in some of the garlic by Rosa ‘Sophy’s Rose.’ Five cloves, six inches apart, right in front of the shrub. I  write this to help me remember they are there, because in spring I expect their greenery to be mixed in with lots of other green bits. Already I realize that the garlic is likely mixed in with the pale pink Chionodoxas I planted but forgot to mark.

I planted one fat clove in a crowded container with Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ before realizing there wasn’t room for more. Roses are said to combine well with alliums and their relatives (onions, garlic, and chives): gardening folklore, if not science, advises that alliums repel borers, aphids, moles, and black spot.  Half a dozen cloves went into the container with the snap peas, and a dozen cloves in with the mixed herbs and sorrel. I still have half a head to go. Maybe this is not the time to order shallots.