Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Call To Shallots

It was a little after five a.m. when I woke to the sound of birds. I'd forgotten this. I was surprised by the portability of sound riding on air moving fluidly through aluminum screened wooden portals. City windows are closed windows; they keep out bird calls as much as enduring nightmares of shut-eye thievery. Here I was on the edge of the woods, bird calls the early morning trash cans clanging, and I rose, dressed, and was out of doors in as brief a time it takes me to relieve myself and park on the couch by eight a.m. on any ordinary day.

A clump of French Grey shallots, Allium oschaninii, just before harvest. When they are near ready, the plant leaves will "lodge." This is fancy terminology for falling over. Notice how the bulb tops are near the surface. Despite planting close to the surface, the shallots appeared to pull down deeper into the soil. When we pulled away the crab grass along with an inch of soil during the last weeding, the shallots were again near the surface. If the weather remains completely dry, lodged shallots can remain in the soil for some time.

Shallot harvesting is much like garlic in that you will need a shovel to loosen the roots and soil before pulling in all but the loosest soil. Don't be surprised by the earthworms that like to roost in the roots.

Each single shallot planted will become a cluster of 6 to 10 new shallots. There appears little to predict shallot size other than great soil. After pulling, shake out the soil and lay the clump aside. Do not rinse them -water is to be avoided. The new shallots will be naked, but will, in time, form a tough skin.

We built custom racks to transport and cure our shallots. The curing can take 3 to 4 weeks, with humidity the greatest factor. Cool, dry, air flow -that's always best.

After 5 days, they'll look like this. 


  1. The robins sometimes start singing around 3-4AM here in NJ. It's so early that I wonder if they're just up late. I'm sure that it's me projecting, but one sounds pissed off when it a kid being forced to practice his scales.

  2. Very nice. I think I can smell them...

    I am intimately acquainted with Brooklyn birdsong. Until today our windows were open. Robin across the road is first (he is happy to practise his scales), for a long time, in the dark. Then cardinals. The mockingbird, much later. It's very pretty.

  3. First floor and methadone conspire to keep ours shut. And now, of course, the ac. I grew up with these very same bird calls and open windows, it's been awhile.


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...