Shallots to Grow and Eat!
One of the truly great mysteries is "Why aren't shallots more popular?" ...
There simply is no good explanation.
Shallots are wonderful - they're like garlic - easy to grow and store - but most importantly, delicious and a pleasure to use in the kitchen.
There exists a common misconception that a shallot is a cross between garlic and an onion - the truth is, that for all practical purposes, they are onions - by taste and smell - and may be favorably substituted for onions in any number of dishes.
Growing, Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Great Shallots
Unlike garlic, shallots can be grown from seed - depending on your growing season, etc., it may or may not make sense to use this method. It takes more gardening care - when directly planted in the field in the spring, the seeds are very small and hard to handle and position properly - during the germination phase, the plot must be kept damp and well-weeded. The plants will need to be thinned, then mulched.
Depending on the length of growing season, the shallots will probably be smaller than if spring-planted using a "set" - just like an onion set - it is a smaller, immature shallot bulb that you plant just like garlic (see the section on growing garlic) - butt-end down - an inch or two underground with 6-8 inch spacing between plants. Mulching is also a good idea.
Shallot sets for planting - especially organic shallot sets - can be very difficult to find. Big John is especially proud of being able to supply these!
Since the shallot will "spread" and produce a cluster that is largely on top of the ground as it grows, a little more room between plants is needed.
And, to really get a head-start on bigger, earlier shallots, plant sets in the fall just like garlic! Unless you live on the frozen tundra (an extremely cold place where the ground is frozen for a good portion of the winter), you can plant those bulbs in the fall and have great shallots by the very early summer.
Shallots like full sun and moisture - don't let them completely dry out and keep them weeded.
To get the biggest and best shallots, simply wait until the tops fall over, much like any onion. Pop the plants out of the ground - leave the tops on and lay out in piles on the ground with the bulbs exposed - unlike garlic, you don't have to worry about sunburn - most of the shallot has been above ground anyway.
Shallots are quite pungent at harvest and need to mellow. After a few days, bring them in and set them up to cure just as you would garlic. It will take the better part of a month. This is very important, and when done properly, will maximize their storage life.