Ali of Shallot: Growing French gray shallots

This year I am growing French gray shallots, Allium oschaninii, which are renown in foodie circles for their unique flavor and cooking properties.  Shallots were developed from wild alliums  found from Central to Southwest Asia and are widely grown in Asia and Europe.

I did a bit of reading on shallots and found that, like garlic, they will eventually become acclimated to your particular growing conditions over several generations of seed saving.  I ordered 1 pound of seed bulbs from Territorial Seeds and planted them in early November, preparing the bed with some Plant Tone fertilizer and compost.

The planting information said that shallots can be prone to rot, so I was careful not to set them too deep, and planted them in a raised bed for improved drainage.  Once planted, I  mulched with chopped leaves for weed control and left them to settle in and root.  A few weeks later, I added a layer of straw mulch for the winter.

Because I was concerned about rot, in the spring, I pulled off the mulch fairly early, as soon as the snow was gone and the mulch layer thawed enough to move.  This year that was in early April, right after the snow from our April 1 snowstorm had melted.

By May 1, the shallots had put on enough growth that I re-mulched them with stockpiled chopped leaves.  They’ve grown well over the summer.  Before I re-mulched them, I gave them a foliar feeding of Neptune’s Harvest fish emulsion, and gave them a second feeding about 2 weeks ago.

Information on cultivation online is scarce.  The tops are now beginning to fall over and yellow.   I have read that once this happens, I should pull some of the soil away from the plant, leaving the top exposed.   Once most of the tops fall over they can be harvested.  Dig the plants and leaving the tops attached, dry the plants in a shady location until they are completely dry.  In the material that came with the shallots, it suggests leaving the tops attached for storage.  Once dried, they should be stored in a single layer with the tops still attached; they will last several months.

Information from UK Shallots, a growers group in England suggests leaving the leaves must have fallen over naturally and about 40% of the leaves yellowed.  To harvest, the tops are cut off the shallots, which are left in the ground for 2 hours, then dug and allowed to dry for a while before being gathered into sheds for further drying for about 4 weeks.  I found more interesting information on shallots at the French Gardening website.

My plants are just beginning to fall over as you can see in the photo on the left.  Once 3/4 of the tops have fallen, I will dig them up and dry them in the barn attic, as I did with the garlic last year.  I haven’t really found any useful information on preparing the shallots for replanting, so I’m making it up.  Like I did with the garlic  I planted last fall, I will select the biggest shallot bulbs for re-planting, and store the rest for use.  Depending on the size of the harvest, I might cook some in butter and freeze in 1/4 c increments for use throughout the year.  I am really curious about how the crop will fare, my yield from 1 pound of bulbs, and of course, the taste.

3 Responses to “Ali of Shallot: Growing French gray shallots”

  1. nruit Says:

    Wow. I have always wondered about growing shallots. Very interesting! Hope it continues to go well!

  2. hanu Says:

    Thanks for the helpful information. To ensure large bulbs at harvest time, choose your smallest bulbs to plant. It’s true: small bulbs produce large bulbs, and large bulbs produce small bulbs. I always save the small ones for replanting and cook with the large ones. Happy gardening!

    • Ali Says:

      Wow, that is very interesting, thanks for sharing that info. I may have to set up a couple of comparisons for fun.

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