Onions and shallots, all growed up
‘Memba this (from this early April post)?
Little wispy onion sprouts, mere weeks old in the ground. And garlic and shallots, strong and productive from a good overwintering.
Time flies, my friends. It absolutely flies.
It’s July, and these wisps are all grown up and harvested now. I just recently wrote about the garlic harvest, but shallots were actually lifted first, back in May. Onions, only in the last two weeks (with a second, succession planting to be ready sometime in late July).
The summer is passing so, so quickly — slow down, Summer, slow down! — that it’s difficult to believe my winter (eek!) store of garlic, shallots and onions is already cured, trimmed and tucked neatly into peach baskets in my basement. All while still awaiting the first ripe tomato. (And sweltering in an unbreaking heat wave.)
Like garlic, shallots and onions are super easy to grow. Far easier, in fact, than the traditional home gardener’s staples, tomatoes and peppers. (To wit, I’ve already lost one tomato plant to disease and untold tomato fruit to deer, including every. single. tomato. that has come anywhere near being ripe. Two tomato varieties are already over 8′ tall, which has required layering an additional row of metal fencing atop the permanent 7′ wood fencing, which the vines snake up. The onions, garlic and shallots, on the other hand, were disease-free throughout their entire growth cycle, 3′ tall max, and furry woodland creatures always give these smelly alliums a wide berth.)
As a cook, I would be lost without onions and garlic, so growing these in my home garden is a natural yes.
Shallots are kind of funky in their growing habits. Plant one bulb, and it will divide, producing several more from the single planting. (Garlic does a similar thing — one clove produces one bulb containing many cloves.) Me likey.
Shallots generally store very well, because of their thick, tightly wrapped, papery skin. They’re maddeningly tough to peel, but their onion-garlicky flavor makes the effort more than worth it.
Onions are the easiest of all to grow. Plant them in the Spring. Water and fertilize regularly.
They’ll even tell you when they’re ready to pull by flopping their browning leaves over on the ground. In the photo above, from mid-June, the Red Candies and Walla Walla Sweets were ready to go, while the Texas Super Sweets wanted a few more weeks before joining the curing party.
If you’re interested in growing any of these culinary treats, here’s some info you’ll need right now:
Garlic and shallots — garlic and shallots are planted in the fall in the U.S. and allowed to overwinter. They’re harvested in the spring through mid-summer, depending on how long the cold weather lasts in your growing zone. Therefore, garlic and shallots are purchased now through August for September shipment. Technically, garlic and shallots can be planted in late winter/early spring for a late summer harvest, but you’ll be hard-pressed to locate seed garlic and shallots from nurseries or suppliers.
So do your research now — the most popular varieties go fast. (Note, also, that you can purchase garlic bulbs from your local farmers’ markets or use what arrives in your CSA bags. Keep them whole in a cool location until October’s planting. Don’t bother with grocery store garlic — it’s bred for long storage and to withstand rough transportation and handling, not reproducibility (and certainly not flavor). It will grow in your garden, but not well.)
Onions — onions are not overwintered, so they’ll be available for purchase early in your growing season (i.e., spring). Although it’s a bit late to plant onions anywhere except the southern and western regions of the States, there’s still plenty of time to grow scallions (or, “bunching onions”) from seed.