Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Shallots (page 2 of 4)

by Charlie Nardozzi

Choosing Seeds or Sets

Normally, shallots are grown from sets (similar to onions sets). Purchasing sets is the best option for gardeners who want to save their own variety each year or for those who have small gardens. Set-grown shallots may produce flowers, although these often have sterile seeds. But now, after years of breeding, shallot seed is finally available for sale.

For larger plantings, seed is cheaper than sets, and certified disease-free varieties are available. (Fungal and viral diseases can be carried over year to year on set-grown shallots.) Seed-grown shallots have a shape and flavor similar to that of set-grown ones but are more onionlike in their growth habit. For example, sets of seed-grown shallots cannot be saved for replanting. Spring-planted seed-grown shallots, when harvested in summer, produce sets that if planted will bolt without forming bulbs. Seed-grown shallots take longer to mature (usually more than 90 days compared to 70 to 80 days for sets). Each seed only produces one bulb (set-grown shallots produce bunches of 6 to 20 bulbs per plant), and they're more tedious to weed. Set-grown shallots are day neutral--they will form bulbs at any latitude as long as the growing conditions are correct--while seed varieties are somewhat day-length sensitive with some long-day varieties adapted to the North and other, short-day ones to the South. Generally, 40-degrees North latitude is the boundary; it runs approximately from northern California and Colorado through central Illinois to southern New Jersey. These north-south distinctions are not as critical as with onions, and most seed varieties grow throughout the country.

Some excellent hybrid seed varieties include pear-shaped 'Ambition' (95 days), a good keeper with red skin and white flesh that is best grown in the North; pear-shaped 'Atlas' (90 days), with red skin and white flesh that produces best in the South; round 'Bonilla' (105 days), a good keeper with yellow skin and flesh, best adapted to areas in the North; and pear-shaped 'Prisma' (85 days), another northern variety with dramatic rose red skin and white flesh.

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