Not only when onions are in short supply is the shallot useful. It is invaluable for adding flavour to stews and soups, and for making winter pickles. It gives a really big return for space occupied, and on ground without much good depth – where onions do not do well – shallots can be depended on.
Varieties include Mammoth Exhibition, Giant, Ordinary. The simplest way of dealing with this crop is to plant bulbs (sets or cloves), sold by the pound; ij lb. is sufficient for a 30-ft. row. Each bulb produces a cluster of others like itself. Or- seed – variety The Sutton – can be sown, to produce single bulbs; there are about 1,000 plants in 1 ounce They come up in about ten days, and can be pulled about six months after sowing.
Ready for Use. Harvesting time is July, and bulbs can be kept sound in store up to March.
If shallots can be prepared for as explained under onion, they will be given ideal conditions. If the ground is fight it should be improved by digging in old leaves, or decayed material from the soft rubbish heap or pit. It must be firm, any suspicion of looseness underfoot being an indication that treading or rolling is required.
Before planting or sowing, a good scattering of wood ash, or a sprinkling of superphosphate of lime, should be raked or hoed into the surface, or, where the soil is of the summer-thirsty kind, dusted over the bottom of a broad drill.
The shallot is a sun lover, so its position should be beyond any shade.
When and How to Sow.
Seed is sown very thinly in rows about 8 in. apart, and covered with in. of soil. Seedlings are thinned to 8 in. apart, and the thinnings can be transplanted.
When and How to Plant.
Late January and February are the months for planting, though if the site has not been prepared by then or the weather is unsuitable the planting would be better delayed until March. The bulbs are set out 9 in. apart in rows 1 ft. apart, and are to be buried only half their own depth – that is, the top half is to be above ground.
Shallow planting holes can be made with a trowel, soil being pressed back around each bulb as it goes into place. Or a continuous shallow V-shaped drill can be made with a corner of the draw hoe and the bulbs pressed gently into position at 9-in. intervals. The best plan on dry ground is to make flat-bottomed drills the width of the draw hoe blade and about 2 in. deep, and plant the bulbs along the centre. Should water prove precious in late spring and early summer every drop poured into the drills will be put to good account and none run to waste.
Wind, Worms, Cats.
It is a common experience to find newly planted shallot bulbs dragged out of position by worms or scattered by wind or cats. It does not happen after the bulbs have anchored themselves with roots, but rooting is delayed by disturbance. Wind can be a considerable source of annoyance on light soil, but the bulbs are less at the wind’s mercy if soil is pressed around them firmly; the trouble most frequently arises when the bulbs are merely pushed halfway in, not properly planted.
Worms and scratching cats both hate soot. If this – straight from the chimney, if possible – is scattered thickly between and outside the rows the pests are defeated. But more than one application of soot will be necessary, particularly after heavy rain.
Hoeing and Feeding.
If the drill method of planting is adopted the drills must not be filled in during hoeing – if the latter proves necessary for keeping down weeds. The new bulbs which develop around the base of the old one want room to swell, so they should be allowed to sit on the surface.
Some time in June or July they will be approaching the ripening stage, and in this condition they will be assisted by the removal, with hoe or fingers, of any soil that is covering their lower parts. But this removal must not be overdone, to the extent of exposing, roots.
A little poultry manure sprinkled in the rows now and again during April and May and watered in will assist the crop.
Lifting the Bulbs.
Just when the bulbs are ready for pulling up depends on the date of planting and the warmth of the season or district. But July is the usual month. Yellowing of the tops shows that growth is completed, and any time after these start to wither the clumps of bulbs can be pulled up.
Each cluster should be broken up and the separated bulbs laid out in the sun, on hard ground, a clean path, or the roof of a shed, to dry.
After two or three days they can be stored; if rain falls meanwhile the bulbs must be covered over or taken under cover.
Bulbs raised from seed sown in March may be a little later in ripening.
Storing for Winter.
Any dry place where air circulates freely will carry shallots safely through winter to as late as March. Remnants of the tops should be removed and the bulbs placed in paper bags or not too deep boxes.
The best of the crop (from planted bulbs only) should be set aside for planting the following year.
Preparing for Table.
Bits of root and outer skin should be rubbed off, before cooking or pickling. Shallot has the same nutritive value as its near relation the onion.