Are they garlic or onion, or perhaps a flavorful hybrid of the two? While not as frequently used, shallots are an important part of cuisine and what’s amazing is that they can easily be grown in your garden. Read on to learn when to harvest shallots and what to expect in the process.
Shallots can be planted in the spring or the fall and when you choose to put them in the ground and where you live will determine when they are actually ready.
When to harvest shallots? Generally, though, expect shallots to be ready for harvest in late May or early June. This is around 100 to 120 days after planting in the spring. While shallot bulbs are growing underground, their tops are also growing. Look for the green tops of the shallots to start to turn brown around the base, just above the dirt. These tops will then start to dry out and will eventually wilt and fall over. Underground, the mother bulb will eventually split into smaller bulbs, up to 12 in some cases. These may be visible as they are pushed upwards. If you think your shallots are ready but can’t see them pushing up, remove some of the dirt. If you see the bulbs have split, they are ready.
Finally, take the base of the shallot top and hold it with a steady grip. Loosen the dirt around the bulbs with a shovel and then wiggle the bulbs so they come out easily and with their tops intact.
You can eat shallots right away but if you want to store them for later, they first need to be cured so their outside layer can protect them. Once cured, which takes one to two weeks, you can store your shallots in a cool, dark place, either hanging up in a braid or in a mesh bag.
There’s no need to wash the shallots but you should brush off any dirt from the outside.
What time of year are shallots ready?
A member of the allium family, shallots grow underground, similar to both onions and garlic. However, they are a bit closer to onions so if you have experience growing them, you should have similar success with shallots.
When it comes to shallots, you first need to recognize that they grow in different ways depending on where you live. Those that live in gardening zones 2 through 5, or areas that have extremely cold winters, will plant their shallots in the spring.
However, those that live in gardening zones 6 through 10, meaning you have warmer winters, can plant in either spring or fall.
It’s easier to time the growth of shallots that you plant in the spring because they follow a more natural rhythm. Between 100 and 120 days, your shallots will be ready to harvest.
When you plant shallots in the fall, they enter a dormant period which affects their overall growth time. In this case, when you plant shallots in the fall they are ready 7 to 9 months later.
While when you plant shallots depends on your location, many people observe that shallots are larger and more flavorful if you can plant them in the fall.
How do you know when your shallots are ready to harvest?
Generally, your shallots will be ready in late spring, usually around late May or early June, again depending on your climate and time of planting. Later than this and the hot weather of summer will dry them out.
While the actual shallot is underground, there are thankfully some clear signs that it is ready.
First, look for the tops of the shallots. While they will start out green, when they start turning brown, this is a clear sign your shallots are almost ready.
Look for layers of the foliage near the ground to start turning brown before the coloring snakes up the rest of the tops. As the foliage browns, it will start to weaken and fall over.
Unlike garlic, which can burrow quite deep, shallots remain near the surface of the dirt. In fact, as they grow they will actually push further upwards and become visible.
Shallots are unique in that the first, mother bulb, will split into smaller bulbs, ranging from four to 12. These will be visible closer to when they are ready for harvest.
Occasionally, shallots will split but still be covered by dirt. If you are worried this is happening, simply pull out a shallot plant to check if it is ready.
What happens if you don’t harvest shallots?
If allowed to grow long enough, your shallots will develop scapes that come out of the top foliage. These will continue to grow into flowers, which then produce seeds.
You can choose to let the scapes grow and flower if you want to harvest the seeds for next year’s crop. However, this may affect the taste of the shallots and make them less flavorful.
If you are worried about the taste of early flowers, simply cut off the scape when it shows signs of flowering.
For those that have a normal crop of shallots but forget altogether to harvest them, the seeds they produce may result in new shallots the following year.
However, shallots are an annual plant. They will not continue to grow, simply because the roots are still in the ground.
When left in the ground through the hot summer months and then into the cold, rainy fall months, shallots will just simply rot away. This is actually ok for your soil as they will act as compost and bring nutrients back into the soil.
How to harvest shallots?
Once you see brown foliage and the tops of divided shallots, it’s time to harvest them from the ground. Start by loosening the soil around the bulbs.
Use a small shovel for this but be cautious as you don’t want to accidentally dig into the delicate shallots.
Grab the base of the shallot leaves with a gentle grip. Slowly wiggle the cluster to loosen the roots further and then pull up.
If there is a lot of resistance, you may want to stop and try again in a day or two. Once you remove the shallots, you’ll notice that they are in small clusters. These can be separated once harvested or you can wait and do so later.
Once out of the ground, brush any dirt off the shallots. You can store them loosely or braid them for more convenient storage.
Can you harvest shallot tops?
Before you toss out the tops, or green parts of shallots, first understand that they are actually edible.
Shallot greens have long leaves that look similar to spring onions. They have a strong, oniony taste and are perfect in stir-fries, stews, and sauces.
The trick with shallot tops is that you want to actually harvest them before the bulbs. Otherwise, the greens become brown in color and lose their edible texture.
About 30 days after shallot greens start popping out of the ground, you can harvest some of the leaves. Just keep some of the tops attached to the bulbs to provide nourishment to the rest of the plant underground.
One final way to use shallots is with their flowers. While most people either cut off the flowers or save them for seeds, shallot flowers are indeed edible.
They are often used as a garnish or in a salad for a more subtle onion flavor.
Should you wash shallots after harvesting?
You should rub your shallots clean of any dirt or debris after harvest. However, you should not wash them with water.
Shallots have delicate skin on the outside and if exposed to water, the entire plant will start to rot. In fact, the skin and its layers protect the inner part of the shallots.
Can you eat shallots immediately after harvesting?
Yes, you can eat shallots after harvesting, but one of the benefits of growing your own shallots is that you can store them and have them available year-round.
For proper storage, you need to first cure your shallots. Place them in a cool, dry place. Darkness is good but a bit of sunlight can make the curing stage go faster. Just don’t place them in a hot or humid area as it will encourage rot.
Once cured, which takes a few weeks, you can then store the shallots. Either braid nine of the shallots together or keep them in a bin or mesh bag where there is adequate airflow.
Curing helps with the shallot skins so they shrivel around the inner layers, leaving a protective barrier.
Finally, before storage, remove any extra foliage and roots. You can also make a final pass over the skin with a dry cloth to remove any lingering dirt.
Shallots are an amazing, fragrant vegetable that people often overlook. But, if you are a passionate home chef, the inclusion of this allium bulb will have you delighted. Harvest shallots in late May to early June and with proper storage, you can have access to them all year long.