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It’s not too late to plant shallots for harvesting later this year.

Carol Stein grows it

Planting a single shallot set or bulb will produce a cluster of eight to 10 large, edible bulbs. That makes it a real money saver, considering the price of shallots in the grocery store.

I usually recommend planting shallots in January, but this winter was a game changer for gardening. So I’m planting my shallots now, and looking forward to harvesting a few of the green shallot tops this summer and the shallot bulbs in the fall.

Plant shallots in loose, well-draining soil. For container growing, use fresh potting mix in pots that are at least 12 inches deep and wide. As new bulbs form on the central bulb just below soil level, the spiky, dark green foliage adds color and texture to the garden.

Plant the root ends down, being sure to leave about half the bulb above soil level. Space the bulbs 8 to 10 inches apart, to allow room for softball-sized clusters of shallots to develop below without crowding.

Keep the soil evenly moist by adding a thin layer of mulch or organic compost soon after planting. Provide an inch of water weekly. When foliage fades and begins to yellow, it’s time to harvest the bulbs.

Growing shallots from seed is easy, and I use a combination of bulbs and seed to extend the harvest. After the bulbs are planted and soil temperatures are above 70 degrees later in the summer, sow shallot seed about 1/4 inch deep among the developing plants. Space seeds an inch apart. This spacing will produce one shallot bulb per plant before the first frost. Because crowding hinders bulb cluster formation, spacing seeds farther apart will produce clusters at a slower rate, usually within four to five months after germination.

Fresh shallots can be used immediately. For longer-term storage, hang them to dry in a cool, dark place with good air circulation until the skins have dried. Store dried bulbs as you would onions or garlic.

Debbie Moose cooks it

Shallots are one of those ingredients that can be difficult to locate in the typical suburban supermarket. But make the effort to track down the elusive shallot – it’s worth it.

Shallots are in the same family as onions, but taste milder and sweeter. A shallot is formed of multiple cloves, like a head of garlic. In most recipes, “one shallot” means to use just one clove of the shallot, not the entire head or bulb.

Shallots, which can range in color from white to gray to purple, are covered with a thin, papery skin, similar to garlic. If you’re using a lot of shallots and need a quick way to peel them, drop the cloves into boiling water and let them stand for one minute. Then drain and rinse with cold water, and the peel should come off easily.

Fresh green shallots are sometimes available in the spring, but most of the time you’ll find dry shallots. Make sure they’re plump and firm, with no wrinkles or signs of sprouting.

Many recipes say that green onions make a good substitute for shallots, but I find that the flavor of green onions is stronger, especially the tops. If you must substitute, a better choice may be a sweet onion such as Vidalia, but it won’t taste the same. Do try shallots – they’re a great ingredient to have in your spring kitchen.

Reach Carol Stein and Debbie Moose at tastefulgarden@hotmail.com.