Like onions, shallots belong to the leek family. The two plants are also similar in appearance and taste, even if the shallots are somewhat milder in taste and are usually smaller. In your own garden, shallots can almost never be grown by sowing their own seeds. Here you can find out how it is propagated and what needs to be considered when growing shallots.
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In contrast to the common kitchen onion, shallots stay a little smaller and can consist of several parts. The distinction is not that easy, because there is a variety of kitchen onion that looks very similar to the shallot with its elongated onion shape and pink color. In terms of growth behavior, however, the shallot differs greatly from the onion. The kitchen onions consist of only one onion until they bloom. Only then do the daughter onions develop and the original onion dies. With shallots, several daughter onions grow from the start. Other names for the shallot are:
Shallots are much less spicy in taste than onions. They are not suitable for searing as they burn very quickly and become bitter.
Tubular, mostly dark green leaves grow from the shallot. In warm locations they form a tubular flower stalk with spherical inflorescences. In cooler areas, however, the seeds usually do not mature and are therefore not suitable for reproduction. There are broadly three types of shallots:
- Jersey shallot: onion elongated, pink to copper-red, the most common type
- Gray shallot: onion relatively small and slightly gray, elongated
- Yellow shallot (shallot from Holland): onion round and very short, very similar to the onion.
Shallots prefer a sandy soil in warm locations with good air circulation. But they can also be grown on any other soil. The more sunshine they get every day, the better they can develop. The most important criterion for successful cultivation is a very water-permeable soil. Shallots thrive best in sandy, deep soil that never really produces waterlogging.
- Light requirement: high (full sun, very light penumbra)
- Soil: sandy loam, rich in humus
- pH value: neutral to slightly acidic
- Water requirement: low
The shallot cannot ripen in heavy soils. This is clearly noticeable in the reduced shelf life. If the soil tends to become waterlogged, it is not suitable for growing shallots as they rot very quickly.
Crop rotation and neighborhood
As with all types of vegetables, attention should also be paid to what was grown in the bed in the previous year and what direct neighboring plants they have with shallots. So no plants should be grown next to each other that remove the same nutrients from the soil. In addition, a suitable combination of plants either favors mutual growth or keeps pests away. Shallots do well in mixed cultures with:
A neighborhood of:
- other onions or leeks
- Cabbage plants
The crop rotation on a bed is also important. Shallots should not be grown in the same area for several years. Shallots unilaterally remove nutrients from the soil. Fertilizing usually doesn’t help here. Furthermore, pests (such as the onion fly) can nestle in the ground, which then destroy the coming harvest.
The shallot is a very frugal plant that requires almost no care.
- Nutritional requirements: low to medium (a single compost is sufficient)
- Avoid waterlogging at all costs, shallots rot quickly.
- After plugging in, water very little at first.
- When the foliage has formed, a little more needs to be watered.
- Do not water at all for a few weeks towards the end of the ripening period.
Since shallots are very small and do not form pronounced roots, they are also ideal for planting in a tub or a balcony box. You should only pay attention to the distance between the plants and exclude root competition from other plants.
With no other type of vegetable is weed control as important as with the onion and shallot. Shallots do not tolerate competition from weeds at all. Therefore, the soil around the plants should be kept absolutely free of weeds, otherwise a good harvest cannot be expected. Regular weeding is therefore essential. However, rakes or weed claws should not be used in the vicinity of shallots. The risk of injuring the plants is very high.
The shallot does not normally bloom in the Central European climate. Therefore, the propagation usually takes place by separating the daughter onions. These are put into the ground in spring or autumn as so-called set onions (set shallots or shallots). It is very important that these bulbs (onion sets) are strong and well developed. Onions that are too small usually mean that you cannot expect a good harvest. Incidentally, no special onions are required for cultivation, as is the case with kitchen onions. In principle, undamaged shallots from the previous year or even supermarket goods can be used for this.
- Select strong shallots
- Size: about 2.5-3 centimeters
- Time: March (shallot from Jersey)
- In very warm areas also possible in autumn (cover with rotted manure necessary)
- Winter cuttings: October (gray shallot)
- Row planting: 5-6 bulbs per running meter
- Row spacing: 30 centimeters
- Dig up the soil about 15 centimeters deep and loosen it.
- Insert onions of the same size about 2-3 centimeters deep.
- Stick in the direction of growth (roots down, shoot tip up).
- Do not press the earth down, just pull it smooth with the rake.
- Water only when it is extremely dry.
- Crop time: Harvest around 90-120 days after planting.
There are onions that are used in spring or those of winter-hardy varieties that are planted in the ground in autumn: so-called winter onions. In some nurseries or mail-order companies, these onions are also called shallots to distinguish them from the onions of the kitchen onion. Since shallots are generally not very susceptible to cool temperatures, the species that are planted in spring can be put into the garden soil as early as March. About five to seven new shallots are created on the mother plant in the course of the growing season. If some of these daughter shallots are broken out (while they are still quite small), the remaining shallots will grow larger.
Shallots can be harvested when their leaves begin to wither around August. The right time has come when the herb has died relatively evenly over the entire bed (withering and twisting of the leaves on about 2/3 of the area). The entire stand should already show a clearly dried, gray sheen on the shoots. Then the ripening process is complete and the shallot can be harvested. If you are not sure, you can press the onion neck lightly: you should no longer feel any resistance between your thumb and forefinger. The harvest should always take place on a warm and rain-free day (after a long dry period). To do this, the shallots are simply pulled out of the earth by the leaves.
Warning: when the shallots are ripe, they must be removed from the ground as soon as possible. Otherwise they would form new roots in damp weather and they would no longer be able to be stored. If the harvest time is delayed due to cool weather or rainy weather, the harvest must still be carried out, otherwise the shallots will rot. Thorough drying is a prerequisite for this.
Trampling down the leaves
The custom that the foliage of shallots must be trampled down towards the end of the growing season has found a questionable spread. The aim of this measure should be that the shallot ripens faster. Studies have shown, however, that early intervention in the ripening process has a rather unfavorable effect: the yield is reduced and the shelf life also suffers. On the one hand, valuable ingredients remain in the leafy green; on the other hand, the shallot is not yet fully ripe. However, if flowers form (which is rarely the case with shallots in our regions), these must be removed, otherwise the plant will invest its energy in the flower instead of the bulb.
After the harvest, the shallots should first be dried in an airy and warm place for a few days. This can be done on a newspaper under a canopy or on a sunny day in partial shade. Good ventilation is important so that the shallots can dry off well. The rest of the earth is shaken off before storage. The dried up tube leaves should not be removed. They are ideal for tying or braiding shallots in a bundle for storage. If you still want to remove the leaves, you should leave at least five centimeters of it above the onion neck, otherwise the notorious head rot can occur during storage. Shallots can be kept for a few months in a dark, airy place at temperatures between 10-15 degrees.
Diseases and pests
Basically, the shallot is a very robust plant that is rarely attacked by diseases and pests. In the case of very heavy soil or insufficient drainage, waterlogging can cause the onion to rot or increase its susceptibility to:
Since the shallots are grown for consumption, it is not advisable to use chemical agents to destroy the pests in the event of an infestation. Old home remedies are better. They are less expensive and usually less harmful.
If shallots are grown again and again in the same area, nematodes (small stem elbows) are also often found. The foliage swells, twists, and turns a blue-green color before the leaves wither and the onion rot.
The biggest problem with the shallot is onion flies. These lay their eggs on the young plants in April and May, so that the larvae eat passages in the onions after they hatch. The second generation of onion fly maggot will be added from mid-June. If the infestation is severe, the shallot reacts with rot, its leaves turn yellow and the plant dies. A mixed culture with carrots is effective against the flies, alternatively an insect protection net can also be used. Since the pupae of the onion fly overwinter in the ground, shallots should never be grown in the same place in the garden for consecutive years. A break of at least three years is necessary.
The little, mild sister of the onion – the shallot – is one of the popular vegetables in our gardens. It’s easy to grow because it doesn’t need much besides weed-free, well-drained soil and sun. Planted about three centimeters deep in March, a very rich harvest can usually be expected after 90-120 days. If stored in a cool, dry and airy place, it can be kept for several months.