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.
Like garlic, many of the plants will produce a flower stalk. Cut off all flowers as they appear! Your shallots will have reached their largest size when a good portion of the tops have begun to turn yellow/brown and some stalks are laying down, wilted over. Some of your bulbs will actually appear to crawl up, out of the ground. It's time to harvest. Pull them out of the ground (you may need a pitchfork) leaving the tops on and take them to your curing area.
Lay them out to cure where they will not get wet... no sun.... but plenty of air... just about like garlic. Chickenwire shelves work great
Shallots are quite pungent at harvest and need to mellow. It will take the better part of a month to cure them. This is very important, and when done properly, will maximize their storage life.