Closely related to onion and, like it, a member of the genus Allium. Thought to have originated in western or central Asia. The bulb is divided into cloves that grow on a common base; it is prized in cooking for its distinctive flavor, a combination of mild onion and pungent garlic. Young green shoots are also edible. Dutch shallots have golden brown skin and white cloves; red shallots have coppery skin, purple cloves.
In the Lower, Coastal, and Tropical South, you can plant shallots in fall to harvest green tops through winter and early spring, bulbs in late spring and summer. In the Upper and Middle South, plant them in early spring for green shoots in summer, bulbs in autumn.
Shallots are usually grown from cloves (sections of bulbs). You can purchase these from a seed company or simply buy shallots in the grocery store and separate them into cloves. Plant cloves pointed end up, 48 inches apart; cover with 12 inches of soil. You'll have green shoots in about 60 days, new bulbs in 90 to 120 days. Some seed companies sell seeds of selections such as 'Bonilla', 'Matador', and 'Prima'; plant 12 seeds per foot. Nurseries with stocks of herbs may sell growing plants. Feed regularly, especially early in the growing season, with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Keep soil moist during growth, but withhold water for a couple of weeks before harvest. Bulbs will be ready to harvest in about 100 days.
When bulbs are mature, shoots turn yellow and die. To harvest, pull up clumps and separate the bulbs; before using them, let dry for about a month in a cool, dry place. If stored properly, shallots will keep for up to eight months.