Tips For Planting Shallots
Planting shallots is one of the easiest gardening chores you can do. Ironically, the shallot is a rather exotic and usually pricey member of the onion family, and is quite often found in dishes served at upscale restaurants. When you see a dish on the menu, the word “shallots” practically jumps out at you, as if the dish contained truffles, and is not simply a plate of liver and onions. If you happen to like liver and onions, and many do, give a thought to trying liver and shallots.
Never Cover Completely - Planting shallots in your garden isn't much more complicated than setting the bulb in the ground and waking away. Of course you'll want to prepare the soil first, and remember not to cover up the shallot bulb completely, but leave the tip exposed. Leaving the tip showing is probably the single most important thing to remember when planting shallots. If you cover up the bulb completely, the shallot will very likely rot, and a new plant will never emerge.
The other thing to remember comes near the end of the growing season. By then, each shallot plant consists of lush foliage atop a group of shallot bulbs (some call them cloves, but most refer to them as bulbs). These are good sized bulbs and they stick up out of the ground. What you want to remember is not to follow your instincts and cover them up, as you might for garlic or an onion What you need to do is to leave them alone. When planting shallots you don't cover them up completely, and as they approach harvest you don't cover them up either. Other than giving them food and water, and keeping the weeds down, there's not much more to growing shallots.
It's almost a bit ironic that planting shallots isn't a complicated procedure as would seem to befit such a mild, tasty, and upscale member of the onion family. Shallots can be grown in almost any home vegetable garden, at least those which have a reasonably cool climate, as it is a cool season crop, and given the fact that it is a good keeper when properly harvested and stored, makes it a little surprising that more people don't grow them to save a few dollars at the supermarket.
Harvesting And Storing Shallots - As far as harvesting shallots is concerned, once the tops have fallen over, the bulbs can be pulled. They should be allowed to cure for a few days, which means keeping them out of the sun (otherwise they'll turn green), and in a dry location. Then the individual bulbs can be stored loose in a mesh bag, and will keep for several months if kept at around 40 degrees.
Plant In The Spring, In The Fall, Or Both - As an added bonus, harvesting time for shallots can also be the time for planting shallots. One simply saves a few of the harvested bulbs in the fall (each plant may yield form 6 to 10 bulbs) and plants them for a late spring crop. If winters are severe, mulching would be a good idea. Shallots don't usually like mulch however (the bulbs don't like to be completely covered, remember?) so it's important that at the first sign of spring, the mulch is removed.
If you've not planted shallots before, you need to be aware that they need a bit more room than does garlic or most onions. A small bulb will easily become a fist-sized collection of bulbs by harvest time, so spacing the plants 6 inches apart, or better yet 8 inches apart is recommended.
A final tip: when planting shallots, put them in the garden in a slightly different location each year. If you plant them in the same location two years in a row nothing bad will usually happen, but if you use the same location year after year, your shallot plants may become diseased or less prolific.