Shallots

Shallots – Grow Guide

Shallots are surprisingly easy to grow – find out how in this useful guide.

Overview

Mild-tasting shallots are one of the easiest crops you can grow. You can raise them from seed, but it’s so much simpler and quicker starting with sets (small shallots) that you grow on to cooking size.
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Spacing: 15cm apart 30cm between rows Leave tip showing

Avg yield: 60-180 per 3m row

Growing shallots from sets

Planting

You can plant shallot sets in early spring or autumn; from an autumn planting, you’ll get earlier, heavier crops. Like onions, shallots prefer sun and a moisture-retentive, fertile soil, ideally with plenty of well-rotted organic matter such as garden compost added.

It's worth looking for heat-treated sets, as the resulting plants are less prone to bolting (producing flowers). Bolting reduces the quality of the crop.

Rake over the soil to break down any large lumps. Plant sets with the tips showing. Space your shallots, which produce multiple bulbs, 15-20cm apart. Allow 30cm between rows.

Cover with fleece or netting to stop birds pulling up the bulbs.

Tending the crop

In spring, apply a nitrogen-rich fertiliser to autumn-planted bulbs to give them a boost. Water well during dry spells.

Shallots (like onions) are shallow rooting, so hand weed rather hoe between the rows.

Harvesting shallots

Autumn-planted sets are ready after 36 weeks, spring-planted sets after 20 weeks, but as soon as your shallots are big enough to use you can pick them. The leaves will droop over and turn brown when they’ve stopped growing.

Storing shallots

Spread shallots out on newspaper or racks to dry. They’re ready when their outer skins rustle when you touch them. Hang them in nets in a cool, dark, dry place. They should store well for months.

Preparation and uses

Cut off the tops and peel, then slice or chop finely. Shallots are excellent roasted and they're delicious braised whole in casseroles.

Troubleshooting

Shallots are usually trouble free, though they can be affected by onion white rot – a fungal disease found in soil that causes the foliage to yellow and wilt.

Preventing fungal diseases

To help prevent fungal diseases like onion white rot, try to avoid getting the foliage wet when watering. Water plants at their base, which will also help to ensure it reaches the roots and isn't lost to evaporation. 

Shallot varieties to try

  • 'Golden Gourmet' – a heavy cropper with good flavour. It keeps well
  • 'Red Gourmet' – early maturing with red flesh. The spicy taste is great in salads and cooking
  • 'Red Sun' – good yields of large, red-tinged bulbs with crisp, spicy, white flesh. Stores well. Plant in spring

Related content

Fact file: onions

How to identify onion white rot

Lettuces – Grow Guide

Vegetable seeds to sow in June

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