Recently harvested shallots. Shallots belong to the allium family. SIM ONE/Shutterstock

This summer, we grew shallots in our vegetable garden for the first time. We will definitely grow them again.

I had asked my wife and personal shopper, Nancy, to order the onion seedlings we get every year, and while she was perusing the Fedco website, she saw the shallots being sold as sets, or immature bulbs, and ordered some of those, too.

Shallots are alliums, in the same family as onions, garlic and scallions. They are popular in French cooking and are milder than onions, with a hint of garlic flavor. Confession: This information comes from online reading, as we haven’t eaten any of ours yet. My editor tells me that some cooks who live alone like them, because their size is perfect when cooking for one.

When ordering shallots for your garden, it’s helpful to know the two basic types: bunching and single-headed. Bunching shallots produce many new bulbs from each set you plant. Single-headed shallots… well, the name says it all.

Nancy ordered Roderique, a single-headed, long-day (meaning northern, because our summer days are long) variety, described as a standout French “echalion” or banana-shaped shallot. The tall, narrow bulb grows 1.5 to 2 inches long and has copper-colored skin and white flesh.

In agricultural Zone 5 or warmer, you’re supposed to plant the shallots in the fall. But Fedco ships shallots beginning in April, probably because most of Maine is colder than Zone 5. The Portland area, however, is Zone 5, and I think fall planting would work for us if I could get the sets then.


In any case, I planted the shallots right after they arrived in April, at the same time we planted our onions. After loosening the soil with a pitch fork, I spaced them about 5 inches apart, as recommended. Then I fertilized and watered them.

The minimum order from Fedco was two pounds of sets, with Fedco estimating 16 to 20 sets per pound. We have about 60 plants, so I think the shipment was generous – and we expect to be eating a lot of shallots soon!

I ignored the growing plants until June, when I noticed their scapes, which showed up about a week earlier than our garlic scapes. After doing some research, I harvested them. Unlike garlic scapes, shallot scapes don’t have that attractive curl, but, like garlic scapes, they are tasty in salads and sauces. Re-reading the growing instructions now as I researched this column, I see that I should have fertilized the shallots at least once and maybe twice. I didn’t, but our shallots reached the projected size just fine, so I don’t think they suffered much.

Shallots don’t like to be constantly damp. Sorry shallots, but there was nothing I could do about all the rain this summer. They survived what seemed like daily rain in June and early July, though. Luckily, the soil in our vegetable garden drains well, so it wasn’t soggy.

As with onions, to harvest you wait until the green tops have flopped and then lift the bulbs up and move them to a dry, shaded area – such as a shed or a garage – to let them cure for a week or two, assuming you want to store them. You can cut the green tops off and use them (cooked or raw) in the kitchen. Or just leave them on until you bring the shallots inside for storage. In our garden, the shallot tops flopped about a week before our onions did.

According to Fedco, single-headed shallots store longer than the bunching variety, because the bunches tend to hold more moisture. Like onions, they should be stored in a cool, dark, dry and well-ventilated space. Hanging them in a mesh bag is the best way, but open-topped boxes also work well.


I expect they’ll provide us good eating all year long. Nancy has already found a recipe for roasted shallots that she wants to try.

The roasted shallots in this photo were made with rosemary sprigs, which, like thyme, would be delicious. Libin Jose/Shutterstock


Nancy Atwell found this recipe on, and she’s eager to try it once the shallots she and Tom are growing are harvested. 

Ready in 50 minutes. Serves 4

1 lb. shallots
Olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.


Cut the ends off the shallots and peel them. If you are struggling with getting the skin off, make a shallow cut along the length of the shallot and then peel. Place them on a small baking sheet and drizzle them lightly with olive oil.

Pour on the balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Use a rubber spatula or your hands to mix well.

Lay down the thyme sprigs over the shallots and cover the pan with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Allow to cool slightly and serve.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at:

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