How to grow shallots: in pots and in the garden
It’s not really an onion
The bulb is similar to the onion, and the plant too, the umbrella inflorescences and taste are very similar. But the shallot is not an onion. It is without a doubt less common, more delicate and finer than onions, with which it shares a family, that of Liliaceae or - according to its current classification - the Amaryllidaceae.
The plant is no more than 30 centimeters high and the bulb is round and made up of a few bulbils contained inside, for a total diameter of up to 5 centimeters and a weight equal to 3 or 4 cloves of garlic. There is an elongated variety whose shape resembles a spinning wheel spindle or a chicken leg, which gives the name to this shallot.
Its taste is more aromatic than that of the onion; it resembles garlic but it is more delicate. That is why it is usually preferred in dishes in which a recognizable but not too strong of a flavor is sought. It also causes less bad breath issues and the young leaves can be raw chopped and used instead of chives.
Another advantage of shallot cultivation is that it can be grown both in open fields and in pots.
Varieties, characteristics and cultivation in the vegetable garden
Spread in Europe since the XI century, probably from the city of Ascalona (hence the name) currently in the state of Israel, or maybe from Iran and Afghanistan, the shallot is actually already cited in the Capitular “De villis” of Charlemagne, which recommends its cultivation.
It propagates from the seed (less practiced and widespread choice) or from a bulb that requires, in any case, a soil rich of minerals and dissolved, an abundant but reasonable watering and a lot of sun.
If you start from the seed, in spring (or a month before the last frosts) the soil is prepared by weeding it and clearing it of debris and irregularities up to 30 centimeters deep and it is enriched with mineral fertilizers, trying to maintain a pH between 6 and 7.
The seeds are arranged in rows of circa 1,5 cm deep in the ground, at a distance of 20/30 cm from each row and of 12/15 cm between plants. Patience is needed because the shallot can take from 10 to 30 days before sprouting, and it requires constant and high temperatures: around 20/25°C for germination, and a maximum of 30°C for its growth.
If the seedlings sprout at a regular distance and the cultivation is not very extensive, you should not need to eradicate them (by hand), while a light mulch of bark can
In that case, you can cut some centimeters from the leaf (to be used instead of chives), and that can be added in salads. Moreover, the cutting can be repeated a couple of times.
Grow the shallot in pots
If there is no need for extensive cultivation, if you do not have any more space in the vegetable garden or simply just for fun, you can try to grow this vegetable in a pot. As with growing in the ground, there is no need of a great depth and any variety- red, Jersey, white, Romagna- it is equally suited.
The bulbs are buried in a pot with wet soil that has been previously mixed with mineral fertilizer, at a depth of circa 2,5 cm and at a respective distance of 3/5 cm from each other.
The future plant must be exposed to sunlight as much as possible, and with some luck, after only two weeks, the shallot sprouts should appear.
As for the open field cultivation, after some other day you can cut a few centimeters off the green aromatic leaves, keeping in mind, however, that this can impact the bulb development. Otherwise, you can let the bulb develop undisturbed until it reaches its maximum dimension and is at the end of the vegetative cycle for that year.