University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
SHALLOTS AND SCALLIONS
Dr. Leonard Perry,
University of Vermont
If you like to eat and cook with
onions and garlic, and aren’t familiar with their close relatives,
try shallots and scallions. They’re easy
to grow, and particularly with shallots you can save money by having
your garden to harvest.
Although many just harvest regular
onions early before they form bulbs, and call these “green onions”
the true ones are specialized onions whose bulb at the base is about
size as the base of the leaves. You may
see these referred to as “bunching” or “non-bulbing” onions. Chop
and use these in soups, stews, salads,
and as a garnish for a mild onion flavor.
Scallions need a well-drained soil,
and somewhat even moisture. But since
these don’t grow as vigorous, long, or as big as onions, they need
fertility. A soil amended with compost
and well-rotted manure, and perhaps some organic fertilizer
(according to label
rates) during soil preparation, should suffice.
Make sure the site is in full sun, as shade can greatly slow growth.
You can sow scallion seeds in early
spring to harvest in summer, then again in late summer to harvest in
early winter. In a protected spot, and
with deep straw mulch, you might even get them to survive over
winter. Sow seeds one-half inch or less apart, in
rows that are an inch apart, then thin later to about two inches
apart. About 500 seeds will sow about 10 feet of
row. Or, you can sow at this spacing in bands that are 3-inches
Since they don’t compete well with
weeds, use a site that is free of weeds and weed seeds if possible.
Keep them weeded often while weeds are small,
to avoid damaging the shallow
roots. Plant or sow in a part of the
garden that hasn’t had onions or their relatives for a couple of
years. This “crop rotation” will help with soil
fertility and reduce pest pressure.
As plants grow, hill up some soil
around them to increase the blanched white portion at the base. Or,
if you start seedlings indoors to
transplant out in spring, plant deeper than you would other
seedlings, and an
inch or two apart. To sow indoors, sow 8
to 10 weeks before the last frost date as seeds are slow to
You can harvest scallions when they
reach 6 inches tall. The more they grow,
the stronger the taste. Harvest by
gently pulling, or loosening the soil underneath with a spading
fork. Trim roots off and any dead or damaged
leaves, wash, and store in the refrigerator.
They should last a week, or longer if you wrap them in moist paper
towels in a plastic bag.
If you want to try and have
scallions last over winter, try ‘Evergreen Hardy White’. You can
then divide the clumps the second summer to start a new crop.
‘Nabechan’ is a traditional Japanese cultivar
(cultivated variety) which has thick lower stems or “shafts”, and a
sweet flavor. ‘Guardsman’ is one of the
earliest scallions (ready in two months from sowing). This English
cultivar is a cross between a
bunching and a bulb onion, with the shape of the first but getting a
root system and large top from the latter. ‘Deep Purple’ is
for a base of that color. ‘Parade’ is a
beautiful upright, dark green, and uniform cultivar.
The other onion relative, shallots, resembles
a cross between an onion on the outside and garlic on the inside.
They are milder than either, with a sweet
flavor that comes out even more when they are cooked or roasted.
Cook them with chicken, vegetables such as
asparagus or peas, mushrooms, Swiss chard, or in casseroles. They’re
of French cuisine.
can grow shallots from seeds or from “sets”—basically half-grown
are more expensive, but easier and give a quicker harvest. To start
from seeds, sow indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last
average frost date for your area.
Transplant in mid-spring, spacing
2 inches apart. Or you can sow one inch apart in the garden,
2 to 4 weeks before the last frost.
grow from sets, separate the sections or “cloves”, planting these in
about 6 inches apart. Press them in the
ground so the pointed side is up, and just sticks out of the ground.
Use a site
and culture similar to scallions. As
plants grow, you can mound up soil around the base of plants.
can harvest shallots when the leaves have begun to turn brown and
fall over. This
is generally about 90 to 120 days from planting. Each clove should
yield 10 or more shallots. Dig
bulbs gently, loosening the soil with a spading fork, then wipe off
dirt. Place them on trays or a wire rack
in a shady, dry and well-ventilated place, for three weeks or more
“cure”. Then pull off the dried tops,
and store in a cool (50 degrees F is ideal), dry place away from
tomatoes. (These give off ethylene gas,
which causes bulbs to sprout.)
the largest shallot bulbs for replanting next year. Or try planting
in fall for a spring crop,
mulching with at least 6 inches of straw or leaves.
is a hybrid shallot with bright coppery skin and pale yellow flesh,
stores for 6 months or more. ‘Ambition’
is a large French cultivar that also stores well. Similar is
slightly longer, with a reddish brown outside and pale pink inside.
‘Camelot’ is attractive with its dark red
exterior and white interior.
A new pest of onions and its relatives is invading the
North Country. The leek moth, originally
from Europe, lays eggs which hatch into small caterpillars or
larvae. These chew on leaves early in the summer, and
later in the summer larvae tunnel into plant bases, causing them to
rot. Covering plants with a lightweight fabric row
cover should keep this moth away.