Shallots resemble onions and, like them, are in the genus Allium. Thought to have originated in western or central Asia. The bulb is divided into sections that grow on a common base; it is prized in cooking for its distinctive flavor, a combination of mild onion and pungent garlic. Young green shoots are also used as scallions.
Shallots are usually grown from cloves (sections of bulbs). You can purchase these from a seed company or simply buy shallots in the grocery store and separate them into cloves. Nurseries with stocks of herbs may sell growing plants.
Dutch shallots have golden brown skin and white cloves; red shallots have coppery skin and purple cloves.
In mild climates, plant shallots at least 6 weeks before the average date of first fall frost to harvest green tops through winter and early spring and bulbs in late spring and summer. In cold-winter regions, plant in early spring for green shoots in summer and bulbs in autumn.
Plant cloves, pointed end up, 4–8 in. apart; cover with 1/2 in. of soil. From spring planting, you’ll have green shoots in about 60 days, new bulbs in 90 to 120 days. Some seed companies sell shallot seeds; plant 12 seeds per foot. Bulbs will be ready to harvest in about 100 days.
When bulbs mature, the shoots yellow and die. Pull up clumps and separate the bulbs; before using them, let dry for about a month in a cool, dry place. If stored properly, shallots will keep for up to 8 months.
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