Monday, June 28, 2010

Of books, covers, and judging

I get, on a visceral level, that lovely produce isn't always the best, if by best one means "most flavorful," or "not sprayed with poison." I've eaten enough fruit that bugs tasted first, or knobby-looking carrots, or greens with -- gasp -- aphids on them to not get all caught up in the beauty contest that is modern food sometimes.

But apparently, I'm just as judgy as the next person. I confess, really I do, and I won't fall into that trap again too soon, I hope. This fall, alliums ruled the garden roost. Garlic, keeper onions, leeks (which still escape my gardeny success, drat them), and of course shallots.

"Of course," because nothing makes a fresh tomato soup like a shallot. Nor a cream sauce, nor many other delicate and lovely tasty things. And because I'm practicing to be a food snob. At any rate, I tried three different kinds: Gray shallots, Dutch yellow, and Santé, all from Territorial.

The Dutch yellow and the Gray got pulled early this month. The Dutch are sort of long, like bulby scallions, and not at all what I remember planting. I must have done something wrong. The Gray shallots proved that black aphids are gourmands, because 90% of them were gobbled up into slime by the bugs.

The Santé were off in a side bed, completely ignored. Then right after dinner tonight I wandered outside for some reason, and got sidetracked. The light in summer keeps me outside much longer than usual. I can't get enough! I was poking around and noticed some Evil Bermuda Grass in the shallot bed. I'd ignored the bed, because the shallots looked awful. Not awful as in "ready to harvest," but puny and unprepossessing, like anemic grass.

Imagine my surprise when, as I was pulling a weed, up came a classically-shaped shallot bulb:

Maybe not the biggest, although some were adequately sized, but definitely the nicest shaped ones in the garden. Go figure. They're out there so the roots can dry a bit, then I'll sift through them and clip them for storage. Maybe these are the shallots I'll replant next fall.


Ribbit said...

So much is hit or miss. I'm so glad you found something that works!

Toni said...

I'm growing shallots for the very first time! Don't know what to expect!

I've never even cook with them before!

chaiselongue said...

They look great! And, like all alliums, they're good for you too, as the 'Santé' name suggests ('health' in French). It's not always the plants that get the most attention that do best, is it?!

el said...

I am all over the place with shallots, Stefaneener. Seed-grown seem to produce the biggest ones for me, but then seed-growing is the hardest thing. And planting the shallots themselves: I do it in the greenhouse in the late fall with the garlic and inevitably spring will happen and they get beautifully large and then go to seed (makes perfect sense of course but still) so they're just space-hogs.

But I am so with you about the beauty thing. It's in the eye of the beholder/gardener.

kitsapFG said...

I love pleasant surprises like that. I quit growing shallots because I could never get a decent crop out of the bulbs and I found I was not that impressed with the flavor to warrant keeping on messing with it when onions did just as well and grew more realiably.

patricia said...

Stefaneener,I have grown shallots, off and on, for years. This year was the worst I have ever experienced. All alliums showed poorly this year for me. Since we both garden in the same general area,you, east, I, north, bay, I think we may have had the same problem. The Weather!
BTW, aphids on greens? In the 60s we lived in Hawaii. When I purchased watercress I had to be very careful because hidden in almost every bunch were itty bitty snails, smaller than 1/4 inch. Crunchy salads were a little scary those days.

Julie said...

Hey I just did shallots for the first time this year and just yesterday I was looking at them and thinking "I have no idea when you are ready to harvest" Mine still have green tops but are starting to look a bit yellowed at the edges. When should I pull them???
Boy there sure is some size differences between the plants...all in the same bed, go figure.

Kristin said...

Shallots are too much work for me; but I admire those who have the patience to grow, peel, and cook them.

Christina said...

Lovely. Such perfectly formed tiny bulbs. I'm with you on shallot flavor--it can't be replicated. I grew Sharon's Shallot that I ordered from a fellow Seed Savers Exchange member this year, and I was really happy with it. I was adamant about whacking off every flower head it tried to send up. I was pretty happy with my harvest--most bulbs measured about an inch across. I'm wondering if, like garlic, this variety will improve its growing habits the longer it grows in my microclimate.

Daphne Gould said...

I haven't grown shallots in 20 years as I remember them not being very productive. I dolove them though.

Jackie said...

Funny! I'm also "practicing to be a food snob". It's getting more difficult all the time to find a restaurant that I think has better food than I can cook at home. Such snobbery!

Stefaneener said...

Ribbit, a lot of the misses are, I believe, due to operator error! But there is just so much I don't know, and weird happenings to boot.

Toni, I hope yours turn out much less perplexing than mine.

Chaiselongue, we'll see how they turn out. They do look classic, though. If only neglect made everything grow so well.

el, you have probably put a lot more thought into them than I have, so I'll bow to your experience. Next year is going to have to make up its own mind, I think. I waver about broccoli because of space.

kitsapFG, we'll see if they're worth it. They're so expensive at the store, it would be nice if they just grew heartily.

Patricia, the snail story just about did me in. eeeeesh. And yes, this has been a bad year. I'll have to spray for fungal diseases this fall, to be sure.

Julie, from what I read, treat them like garlic or onions. When those look ready, these should too. But mine hadn't died at all. They were done, though.

Kristin, we'll see if I have that patience!

Christina, you would think things must adapt, no? It stands to reason. I hope mine improve.

Daphne, sometimes I forget to grow and eat things I enjoy. Bizarre but true.

Jackie, if my cooking was as good as my ingredients, I'd never eat out.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I love Patricia's snail story.

You cannot imagine how much time I spend, cleaning kale leaves. It seems that every insect in the Bay Area has discovered the merits of laying eggs or living on our kale.

Stefaneener said...

Lisa, that's pretty . . . ugh.

Those winter gray aphids are my overall least favorite, although I haven't yet encountered tiny snails, thank goodness!

Heiko said...

My onions, after a year of relative success, aren't doing well at all, but leeks are flourishing. Isn't it odd how things swing in roundabouts?