Friday 6 July 2012

Stitched up

Yesterday I harvested our crop of "Jermor" shallots, which survived minus 20 Centigrade this winter apparently unharmed, in fact quite an improvement on last year. Shallots make wonderful sauces. For those who love onion gravy (British cuisine at its best) there just ain't no onion gravy like shallot gravy. Shallots are a relatively unusual vegetable in the UK and therefore expensive - hence an ideal vegetable to grow on allotments (as opposed to cabbage, cabbage, cabbage). I've grown Jermor for about ten years, first on the allotment in Leeds and then in the potager in France, plus a few in the flower border, where the spout of blue-green leaves is spectacular.

Jermor is a French demi-longue variety, which is to say a good bulb is flask-shaped, rather like an Orangina bottle in miniature. There are also cuisse de poulet (chicken thigh) and ronde (round) shallots, with golden or red skins. I am also growing Red Sun, a round red-skinned Dutch variety, planted in Spring and not a long way behind the Jermor. I've tried growing shallots from seed, but sets (baby shallots) are much more reliable. Wherever you buy them, France, England, Germany, Holland... Jermor sets are produced in France and Red Sun are Dutch in origin.

What a pleasure it is to see shallots, onions and garlic standing on lovely healthy roots. Our allotment soil, used by generations of gardeners since 1896, was contaminated by the spores of onion white rot. This fungus destroys the roots and base of the bulb, causing it to go brown, soft and slimy. Sometimes over 80% of the crop would be affected and unusable, and some of our fellow allotmenteers gave up growing onions because of it. The first signs of attack is drooping, flaccid leaves. When you pull up the bulb you can often see white fungal fluff around the base. The spores can live in the soil for at least 20 years, so we don't want it! The only thing we can do to prevent contamination is to buy authentic high-quality sets - never plant shallots or garlic from the supermarket shelf!

The harvest is now drying on recycled bread delivery trays in the hangar (out of the rain). Some - the smallest and the less attractive - will be turned immediately into shallot confiture, the recipe for which I blogged about here. The most unusual specimen is a pair of rather spindly bulbs from the edge of the bed stitched together by a stolon of couch grass (twitch grass) or I should be calling it chiendent.

Why we don't like Couch Grass
The silica tipped business end of Couch roots.


Diane said...

I have grown both garlic and onions very successfully but I have never tried shallots, no idea why not. On my list to plant later this year. Thanks for this post and the reminder. Have a good day. Diane

GaynorB said...

Hi Pauline,
Your shallot confiture is delicious! A very good reason to grow them.

Pollygarter said...

Thanks Diane - shallots are really easy to grow, just a little fiddly ro peel. Glad you liked the shallot confiture Gaynor! It's lovely with Cheddar.