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Shallot Theory

October 23, 2012

Yesterday evening it dawned on me that procrastination was winning and I had no shallots in the ground. This isn’t a crisis (yet) by any stretch as some don’t plant their shallots until the very end of winter when spring is lurking just around the corner. (If I have any left in February and remember to do it, I’ll plant a few to compare against my generally successful fall planting scheme.)

So what then is my shallot theory?

First, consider how straightforward garlic seed clove selection is, as covered briefly in my post here. Bottom line, cull the largest heads and plant the largest cloves and over the years you will develop the best stock for your particular garden spot.

It isn’t so clear with shallots. Like garlic, shallots are alliums but they have a different growth pattern. A single garlic clove will grow into a single bulb with a single stalk growing from it (the division happens at the end of the growth cycle and the bulb is harvested before cloves separate); a single shallot will almost immediately start division. You will see multiple “stalks” emerge from the ground and ultimately there will be an individual shallot under each.

So how to grow bigger, heartier shallots that are closer in size to those in the produce section and in glossy garden catalogs?

The interweb has all sorts of opinions floating on this but after some consideration my conclusion as follows:

Big shallots produce a higher number of smaller shallots the next year. (They don’t keep as well as the smaller ones either, so eat them early or plant them.)
Small shallots grow into fewer larger shallots the next year, sometimes just one very large shallot.

This is the pattern that potato onions follow, so it makes sense that shallots might follow the same path..

So…. I’ll plant some large ones to make sure I have plenty of “seed” for next year and small ones so that I might not have to peel quite so many when I cook with them.

My shallot theory will be tested this year as I will actually document what has been planted when and where; consider this post the first stab… (I lost my notes from last year and you absolutely cannot remember what, where & when you planted anything without notes.)

First a handful of shallots were pulled from storage and sorted by size; these ranged from slightly larger than my thumbnail on up to something between a golf and tennis ball:

The larger ones got their own section with more generous spacing than the smaller ones, maybe an 8″ grid..

I spaced the smaller ones 5″ apart in 8-10″ spaced rows in a couple of beds where I had some room:

(Dang that is some nice looking soil isn’t it?)

A word about depth:

Shallots shouldn’t be planted any where near the 2-3″ depth of garlic cloves. As division starts the shallots benefit from being closer to the surface (where they can spread/sprawl) and the rule I follow is to press the shallot into the ground just deep enough so that the tip is at or slightly above the surface.

And that’s about it…..

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2012 5:41 pm

    That IS nice looking soil!

    • November 11, 2012 6:16 pm

      It takes someone who has suffered through poor soil to really appreciate the good stuff..

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