Find out how to grow tasty shallots. Discover our best shallot varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Sweeter than onions and milder in flavour, shallots can be pickled or used in place of onions when cooking. Related to the onion, shallots can be grown from sets (small bulbs), both in autumn and spring. From one set, a fresh group of shallots will grow in clusters at the base. Most varieties are much smaller than onions and have finer layers, but they store just as well – if not better. There are both rounded and long (banana) types to choose from.
Best shallot varieties
Best Buy shallot varieties
Yield from 12 sets: 1.6kg
A Best Buy since 2011, ‘Mikor’ impressed us with a large harvest of great-quality bulbs. It’s a Jersey ‘half-long’ type, so the bulbs are more rounded in shape, like a traditional onion, than the long (or banana) shallots. ‘Mikor’ gave us large bulbs, making them easy to use in cooking, with crisp white flesh, prettily tinged with pink and smooth copper-coloured skins.
Yield from 12 sets: 1.5kg
How we test shallots
At the beginning of March, we planted 12 sets of each variety. We planted all our shallots into a well-fertilised bed at the Which? Gardening magazine trial ground at Capel Manor, north London, planting the sets with the tips just below soil level to deter curious birds from plucking them out. We harvested all shallots in early July 2020. We rate each varieties for: the weight of the usable bulbs we harvested, discarding any bulbs that are too small or misshapen; if we got good-sized bulbs with smooth skins; whether the bulbs were the same size with not too many large or small ones; any problems the plants suffered as they grew.
When to plant Plant
sets in March or early April so that the tip is just below the soil surface; otherwise, birds will pull them out again. Use a trowel to avoid damaging the set. Space sets 15cm apart in rows 30cm apart, or 23cm apart each way, if you prefer. You can also plant in autumn, but we found that many are lost to wet conditions in winter so wouldn’t recommend it.
This modern French variety gave us a great harvest of smooth, shiny golden bulbs, with only a slightly less heavy yield than ‘Mikor’. It’s a banana shallot with pink flesh and coppery-coloured skin. It’s easy to chop for cooking and we thought it had a mild taste that was very pleasant in contrast to the strong onion-flavoured varieties.
Apart from regular weeding, shallots need little attention until mid-summer.
How and when to harvest
When the tops fall over, usually in July, the bulbs are ready to dry off for storage. Lift the clump to break the roots and leave them to bake in the sun. If it’s wet, finish drying them indoors. Fully ripened and dried shallots should store into the spring.
Common growing problems
Onion white rot
Onion white rot is a soil-borne fungus. Symptoms include yellow and wilting leaves and rotting roots. A white fluffy fungus can be seen on the base of the bulb near the roots. There is no treatment for white rot, so don’t plant onions or shallots where this has previously been a problem. Avoid transporting it to other sites on contaminated soil on dirty tools or muddy boots.