15th Jun 2000
We are now at a crucial time in the development of your exhibition shallots, particularly, for those shallots that were planted at the beginning of the year, they will have achieved their optimum growth and keeping them in the ground over and beyond this period will induce secondary growth. This secondary growth, in the main, is the reason that we see so many mis shaped bulbs being staged at the shows. The bad shape is often referred to as being double because there are effectively another bulb growing by the side of the main one.
Keeping a careful eye on the development and growth pattern of the shallot is essential for well shaped bulbs and the trick is to remove them from the ground before they start secondary growth and before another bulb is developing. The only way you can monitor this is to watch the development of the foliage, particularly the timing of new central shoots. These shoots should be emerging on a regular basis from the centre, for example if the last leaf to emerge from the centre is say 6 inches long and no sign of any other young shoots emerging, them its a safe bet that the bulb has achieved it's optimum growth for this season and early removal is advisable.
Traditionally the shallots were always planted on the shortest day, the 21st December and harvested on the longest, 21st of June, however don"t take this as gospel, rather look carefully on a daily basis at the bulbs development. One thing with shallots is certain, don't be blinded by size that is possibly out of your reach anyway, grow rather on the basis of superb quality and you could still win at the highest level. Of course large bulbs of equal quality to smaller ones should always win, but you have to consider that those bigger ones are much more difficult to achieve perfection with; the bigger the bulb the bigger the imperfections.
The NVS judges guide for Shallots gives the following points for build up :
The Merits of a good dish are as follows: Well ripened bulbs, free from greening or purpling of the base, firm of neck, free from Botrytis. Single bulbs of good shape with circular outline, of adequate size. Uniform in size, shape and colour with unbroken skins. Good presentation.
Under the Judging Hints : Condition is of prime importance, soft necks usually means Botrytis or grey mould present. Overskinning will reveal greening or purpling of the base; broken skins are a fault and mean downpointing. You are looking for uniformity in size, shape and colour. Good presentation. Finally, All specimens must be tied with natural raffia.
What does all the above tell us, well as far as I am concerned it certainly means that you shouldn"t risk pushing too far for size because Size as a criteria is awarded only 3 points which is just over 15% of the total, definitely a risk not worth taking. The other important point is in the statement 'of adequate size' it doesn't say large bulbs.
The statement 'with circular outline; also backs up all the above and means that the judge will almost certainly be looking for bulbs which are perfectly round with no signs of bulking outwards.
What you should be concentrating on therefore is to stage a dish of shallots that are in good condition, well harvested with an uniform even brown colour, well shaped and of adequate size. Adequate for what Is something I am not quite clear about but as we in the National Vegetable Society always say, ‘If you can't eat it, you don't show it' so the eating qualities are important as well. Presumably therefore adequate size means that they are of a size that can be utilised in the kitchen.
So do not be tempted to push for size as it could jeopardise your chances of staging any bulbs at all if you end up with mis shapen specimens