Are you hoping to be a winner? Then Allium cepa var. ascalonicum, is the ticket!
Of course, this particular “ticket,” rarely to be had at any market, is the classic shallot.
Why bother with this rather small prize of a bulb when you can have a heftier onion trophy? Because, shallots are the real treasure among alliums, which include regular drying onions, ramps, garlic (and their scapes), scallions, leeks and bunching onions.
Ever heard of good things coming in small packages? It’s definitely true here since shallots trump the onion in many ways. To start with, they’re more delicately mild and sweet-flavored, with a hint of caramel and a touch of garlicky piquancy.
Shallots are also winners with their richness in fiber, vitamins A, B6, and C, potassium, folate, manganese and antioxidants (which are released when bulbs are sliced or crushed).
Although cultivated for thousands of years, today they’ve become a rather unknown treasure just waiting to be rediscovered.
Most likely originating in Southeast Asia, they spread throughout India and the Mediterranean region. Noted in Greek history and literature, they were further transported through trading and general crop movements.
So why are shallots such a treasure? If you’ve never had the pleasure of sampling one, you’re in for a real treat.
Although on the outside shallots may appear like an onion, if you cut one open, you’ll discover that instead of rings like onions, they’re composed of several cloves similar to garlic.
Aside from milder flavor, its texture, form and unique aroma make it a “favorites” winner for a diverse number of dishes. You can use the bulbs, cook the leaves as a vegetable, add it to salads, pickle it, shave it raw, or even top your presentation with some shallot flowers.
Similar to garlic, shallots should be planted in autumn in our area. Bulbs, not seeds, are the only way to receive your “prize” of cloves. Order bulbs as early as possible this month.
Shallots prefer a rich, moist soil that’s somewhat sandy, but they will grow in many soil types as long as they’re fertile and well-drained.
Break bulbs apart into individual cloves (like garlic) planting each one 6-8” apart with the root end down (points up, please!), then cover with more composted soil. Leave about one-third of bulb tops exposed. Sprinkle the soil surface generously with fine ashes so any fungus thieves won’t steal away your prize.
Keep lightly moistened by watering until rain (pray it comes this autumn) arrives.
Similar to garlic, shallots’ early leaves will die back in winter only to resprout in early spring when bulbs start forming.
Adding nitrogen-rich fertilizer will enhance your growing treasure, as will frequent watering.
In about 90-120 days when leaves have dried, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing jackpot. After curing in a shaded, well-ventilated area for a couple weeks, they’ll be ready for you to savor. Your very own shallottery!
Did you know?
It takes 18 pounds of fresh shallots to make one pound dried?
In the US, shallots are also referred to as scallions, bunching, or spring onions, but of course they are all very different bulbs.
Some Asian cultures deep fry shallots as a condiment.
Hudson Valley Seed Co
French gray shallot
Golden Caramelized Shallots
2 pounds whole shallots peeled (place in boiling water for 1 minute for skins to slip easily off)
2 tablespoons cooking-type olive oil
3 tablespoons honey, good maple syrup or agave nectar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (black may be used but is stronger)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary finely minced
Zest of one organic lemon
Preheat oven to 400°.
In heavy ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil until hot. Add shallots and honey, stirring until shallots begin to brown. Add in vinegar, salt and pepper, then stir until shallots are well coated.
Sprinkle the rosemary over the shallots and roast in oven about 20-30 minutes until caramelized.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with lemon zest and serve as a side dish, a topping for meats, poultry, or seafood, or serve warm or chilled for salad. Also great on a sandwich as a gourmet relish.