Fall is perfect for shallots and garlic

Published 7:43 am Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The thing that I like about planting garlic and shallots is that it can be done so late in the season.

Garlic, a longtime favorite, has gotten rave reviews from friends that have tried the real thing. You know the saying, “nothing tastes as good as home grown.”

Shallots, on the other hand, have never impressed me enough until lately to think about planting my own.

Between leeks, red, white and yellow onions, did I really need to expand to shallots?

Surprisingly, the answer was yes, and I’m looking forward to a new planting experience that I missed last season.

Shallots are said to be delicate of flavor with a hint of apple, tastier than onions, milder than garlic, and actually resemble both. Wow!

What a combination and they are also easier to digest.

Once they were called eschalots, their name derived from the Ancient Palestinian city of Ascalon, where they were first grown.

They made their mark on French cooking after they were brought to France during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Today they are also grown in West Africa, throughout Europe, the Caribbean, California and the southern United States.

Fall is perfect for planting these tasty treats shallots and garlic both responding to the cool weather for the best results.

They are planted 1-1 1/2 inches deep, four to six inches apart in a furrow 10-12 inches wide. Push the bulb into the soil with the growing point exposed above the surface.

They enjoy being moist and well fertilized during the growing season. As they grow, one bulb ends up being 10-15 units at the end of the season.

Like garlic, the shallot will develop clusters surrounded by a delicate skin making them a pain to peel.

Different varieties will vary in size, shape and color, rather than flavor. Weeding is not to be neglected.

Shallots can be harvested to use in about 60 days after planting. When the leaves turn brown, remove from the soil and leave on the ground for a few days, removing the leaves and soil before placing in a warm, dry place for about a week.

Store the dry shallots in mesh bags in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area. The smaller bulbs can be saved for next years’ planting.

Both fresh and dry shallots are good in salads or as a seasoning ingredient in place of regular onions. This delicious member of the onion family is a good cook’s best-kept secret.

It’s time, if you haven’t already, to try some. You’ll be glad you did.

Gwen Holt is a master gardener from Isle of Wight. Her e-mail address is garden@tidewaternews.com. Virginia Master Gardeners are volunteer educators who work within their communities to encourage and promote environmentally sound horticulture practices through sustainable landscape management education and training. As an educational program of Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Master Gardeners bring the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.