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Hello, am interested in the easiest possible planting for this time of year. My neighbour advises shallots, and my wife is excited as she likes to cook with them. Is it too late, and do you have any advice?

Gareth, Plymouth, UK

I should say not, Gareth, in fact you might even be a bit early. But maybe this weekend we in southern UK will even get a sunny day this weekend for you to get started.  You can pick up some shallots from the store to use as seed, much like garlic. I was given some starters of the “Saffron” variety, from our friends in Holland, and they produced gorgeous shallots that we carmelised with olive oil and sea salt… then, on top of fettucine, a pat of butter and some cherry tomatoes, it was a delicious treat. So let’s get you going!

The already grown shallots from the store or market should work fine and start a cycle for you, which will make buying the plants or the seeds a thing of the past. They will want much the same conditions as your garlic, except use the entire bulb for planting. Pop them in about 2 inches down in crumbly soil, and they will need 5 or 6 inches of growing room. Once springtime comes and you have some greenery, you can hill the soil around your plant.

Each planted shallot will divide and grow into a cluster of up to eight shallots. My Dutch friends say that “if you want large shallots, plant small shallots, and it your tastes run towards little ones, that’s what you’ll get from planting large shallots”. Sounds odd but Edwin swears it is true!

Storing shallots is so easy. Lift them carefully and allow them to dry for two days, assuming you’ve harvesting on a rare sunny day, then put them in a net bag in a cool, dry airy place. Gareth, your wife will have to wait til spring is turning to summer (in most parts of the UK) before she starts planning the menu. if you do your job well, try my suggestion above for the simplest of summer meals.

Arabella May Biddle

a postscript…   I might not always have the answers, but I love to hear from you, dear Reader. I’d especially like to hear from our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, where your gardens are coming to life again. Why not post your questions for all to see at our Facebook page? Look for “Easy Guide To Organic Gardening”, and why not Like us, too?

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