Traditionally shallots are planted on the shortest day and they are usually ready
for harvesting by early summer. They are simple to grow and if dried properly will
store well into winter.
Growing a for showing needs a little more effort. The first rule is select a strain
that will be successful on the show bench. The best varieties seem to be Hative
di Niort or Aristocrat but they can be difficult to find.
For small 'pickling' shallots plant four or five small shallot in a 5” pot filled
with good quality compost. Stored in a cold greenhouse and later moved to a cold
frame to harden off before bring left outside. The trick with these is to pick them
when they are no more than than 30 mm in diameter.
For large shallots start them in January one to a 3 “ pot. After they get into
growth you may harden them off in a cold frame and then plant them out. Later
on thin them to about 3 bulbs per plant to allow them to gain maximum size. Another
approach is to divide the developing shallots into individuals while still in the
pot and grow on in the larger pot or plant out individually .
You can grow some varieties (e.g. Ambition) from seed and these produce single bulbs
which may if grown may be good enough for showing. Most successful competitors
however use the bulbs from previous years crops.
The real trick is growing enough and harvesting them at the right time, too early
and they are small, too late and they are unevenly shaped! The more you have
the better the chance of selecting an even set of nine or more that will do well
in a show.
After picking tidy them up and clean down to one unbroken skin. Dry them off over
a few weeks and then cut and tie the tops neatly with raffia. Show them on a dish
with a layer of sand on the bottom so that they stay upright.
Growing shallots to a good show standard is difficult and something of a challenge,
but when you do get it right and gain a red card the victory is all the sweeter