Shallots over the world

Shallots are truly international vegetables. The Latin name for shallot is Allium Cepa L. Aggregatum. Shallots belong to the class of plants known as the lily family. There are more than 500 different sub-species. In addition to shallots, onions, garlic and leeks also belong to the Allium genus. Shallots were probably introduced into Europe in around the 10th century when the crusaders brought them back from Asia.

There are noticeable differences between shallots in many countries. Some differences are linked to traditions or local customs. In Asia shallots are predominantly small and round with a deep red colour, while France, Europe's major shallot producer, prefers shallots that are more elongated and reddish brown in colour. In the Netherlands and Belgium yellow skinned shallots used to be very common, but nowadays they are almost only grown by hobby gardeners and on allotments.

The shallot has been joined in recent years by many look-alikes. For example Echalions or banana shallots, “Cuissen”, “Turkish onion” and Torpedoes. However, although they are members of the extensive Allium family, but they are in fact onions and have a different flavour to shallots.

Distinct shapes:

round
oval
elongated


Range of colours:  

red
reddish brown
yellow
grey
white


Natural shallot cultivation depends on the number of hours of daylength. The major production regions in the west are France, the Netherlands, the United States and Great Britain. The so-called “long day varieties” are grown in these countries. These varieties grow slower, are firmer and therefore can be stored for longer. They are available all year round.

Other important production regions can be found in south east Asia and Africa. Thousands of hectares of shallot are grown in China, Indonesia, Thailand and the neighbouring countries. These are tropical cultivars that grow happily with fewer hours of daylight.