My Shallots Are Flowering: Are Bolted Shallot Plants Okay To Use?
The use of shallots is not only common in Europe but also in other parts of the world such as Asia, Africa and South America. They are grown for their edible bulb and leaves which have been used for centuries as seasoning or flavoring. However, they are also known to be poisonous if consumed raw. In fact, some species contain toxic levels of cyanide when cooked.
However, there are many different varieties of shallots. Some are edible while others may cause stomach upset if eaten raw. There are several types of shallots that grow in various climates and soils. Most varieties produce bulbs with white flowers; however, some varieties produce leaves instead of flowers.
All kinds of shallots have two main parts: the bulb (the part that produces the edible juice) and the scape (which contains all the seeds).
Bolted Shallots Are Poisonous!
There are three types of shallots: white, yellow and purple. White and yellow shallots are the most commonly grown varieties. Purple variety is rarer than the other two. Both types of shallots contain cyanogenic glycosides (CGs), which means that they contain high levels of cyanide when cooked.
Cyanide poisoning causes vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness and weakness within minutes after eating them.
Some other symptoms of poisoning by ingested shallots are confusion, disorientation, loss of coordination and difficulty in breathing. In more serious cases, it can result in a coma or even death. It is important to seek emergency medical treatment if you suspect that you or someone else has consumed them.
Harvesting shallots is very easy. You just have to wait until the top of the bulb turns brown. This means that the plant is dead and should be dug up. You don’t have to pull them out.
Just give them a good shake and lift them out of the ground. If you do this, you may need to trim the roots as they can be quite long and have tangled around the bulbs.
You should ensure that you leave the bulb attached to the roots as this is the easiest way to check whether the shallot has fully ripened. You can start harvesting them in summer and keep doing so over the next few months. Just make sure you leave enough time between each harvest as they need time to rest and replenish their reserves.
Shallots are part of the allium family, which includes garlic, chives, leeks and onions. They are grown for their edible bulbs, which have a brown skin and flesh that is firm and white in color. They grow into clusters of small bulbs. Most of the nutrients are stored in the bulb so they should be left in the ground until you need to use them.
If the leaves turn yellow and begin to dry up, then the plant is sending all its energy into making the bulb rather than growing leaves and the bulb will be larger. You can check whether this has happened by gently tugging on a leaf. If it comes away easily, then the plant is sending all its energy into bulb formation. You may want to harvest the bulbs as soon as possible by shaking them free of the soil.
You may notice that some of the leaves have turned yellow and withered, which means that you have left it too late and the plant has formed bulbs. You can still harvest the bulbs, but they won’t be as large because the plant has already used most of its energy to create them.
Choose a dry day to pull up the bulbs as they don’t do well if they get wet. You should be able to see the tops of the bulbs peeking out of the ground. Gently loosen the soil around them with your hands and pull firmly. Do this carefully as pulling up too many may exhaust you and leave you open to accidentally yanking out some you want to keep!
You need to decide what you are going to do with the shallots before they are harvested. If you want to keep them over the winter then it is better to dry them so pick out any that have signs of green growth and use these for eating fresh. Dry them as described below and the bulbs will store perfectly well down into the winter.
If you want to eat them all now, then pick those that have grown the most but remember that they will only store for a couple of months so use them in cooking and eat any leftovers as soon as possible.
To dry the shallots, spread them out in a single layer on a wooden board or screen that allows air to flow through. A window screen placed outside works very well. Keep turning the shallots every couple of days so that they dry evenly. This will take at least a month, possibly more so only do this in a warm dry month when you have the time.
Once the moisture has fled, the skins will become thin and papery and will be prone to tearing so handle them carefully as you store them away in jars or other closed containers where they will keep for many months if not years.
Storing Fresh Shallots
You can eat fresh shallots as soon as you like after harvest. They keep well for a couple of months if stored in a dry, dark place such as a box in your pantry or a closed drawer. You may notice the papery skin starting to turn brown and this is perfectly natural. Just don’t put them in the fridge.
Do Not Eat Shallots that are Green or Growing
As tempting as it may be, you should never eat shallots if they are green or showing signs of growing. Even if you dry them, they will make you sick and possibly give you food poisoning so are best thrown on the compost heap.
You should see garlic sprouting in July and this is a signal that it is ready to be harvested. You can just pull it out of the ground at this stage but leaving it a little longer and drying it for a week or two really improves the flavor making it more mild and sweet.
Cut the stem leaving about an inch, exposing the clove. This will stop the garlic from rotting in the ground, and also dry out the clove inside which makes it less pungent when you eat it.
Sources & references used in this article:
Evaluation of cultivation methods and sustainable agricultural practices for improving shallot bulb production–a review by O Askari-Khorasgani, M Pessarakli – Journal of Plant Nutrition, 2020 – Taylor & Francis
EC00-1207 Growing Onions, Shallots, and Chives by S Schoneweis, L Hodges, LJ Giesler – 2000 – digitalcommons.unl.edu
Assessment of biochemical and antioxidant diversities in a shallot germplasm collection from Vietnam and its surrounding countries by QH Vu, TTM Hang, S Yaguchi, Y Ono… – Genetic resources and …, 2013 – Springer
World vegetables: principles, production and nutritive values by M Yamaguchi – 2012 – books.google.com
The Organic Seed Grower: A farmer’s guide to vegetable seed production by J Navazio – 2012 – books.google.com