Shallots for show

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