Grow chives, shallots at home
By Dean Fosdick
Let's suppose you don't have much time for vegetable gardening, and precious little space, but want easy-to-grow, recipe-driven essentials.
Shallots and chives can be pricey in supermarket produce aisles, but come cheap as seeds or transplants.
A couple of cautions, however:
First, they take time to mature, so plant early.
Another problem is availability, particularly shallots.
"Not many big commercial growers raise them, although more and more are beginning to try," said Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants, in Union Springs, Ala., the largest producer of vegetable and herb plants in America.
(In Hawai'i, chives as seeds and starter plants are often available at nurseries. And some shallots from supermarket produce aisles will grow if planted; seeds may be harder to find.)
Shallots and chives can be used in everything from soups to salads, stews to stir-fry, oils to breads.
Shallots have an oniony essence without the punch many onions deliver. Chives are great as a garnish or a last-minute flavoring. Both are alliums.
Allowing the plants to "bolt," produce flower stalks, can deplete their flavor. "It can change the taste and texture of the bulbs because so much of their energy is going toward the reproductive phase," said Vincent Fritz, an extension vegetable specialist with the University of Minnesota's Southern Research and Outreach Center at Waseca.
Most alliums grow best in full sun, when watered regularly and fed a blend of 10-10-10 fertilizer in well-drained soil.
They're also attractive in containers and don't require as much shoulder room as vine crops.
Shallots resemble garlic, with heads divided into multiple cloves rather than single bulbs like onions.
They can be eaten young (60 days) as you would green onions, or later, like garlic, after the tops die back and the bulbs dry.
Their flavor is described as a mild blend of sweet onions and garlic.
The chive is an oniony-flavored herb, its long green leaves used to flavor or garnish dishes. Its violet blooms also make it a standout garden border.
University of California Cooperative Extension: http://cestanislaus.ucdavis.edu/files/56157.pdf