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All about “Shallot / Wild Onion”

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Shallot: understand everything in 2 min

The term ”  shallot  ” is commonly misused to refer to green onion. The shallot is rather a small vegetable the size of a bulb of garlic, with a more subtle flavor than the onion. There are several varieties, the three most common being gray shallots, Jersey and “chicken thigh”.

Active ingredients and properties

Several prospective and epidemiological studies have found that high consumption of fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and other chronic diseases , 2 . In addition, foods from the alliaceae family (which include shallots, onions, green onions, garlic, chives and leeks) are known for their protective effects against certain cancers.

Antioxidants . Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals . The latter are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases , certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging 7 . According to the results of an in vitro study, shallot extracts demonstrate an antioxidant activity similar to that of garlic extracts 8 . In other studies, the antioxidant activity of shallots has been found to be superior to that of different varieties of onions 9 and cabbage 10. This strong antioxidant activity is attributable to the flavonoids contained in shallots 10 , 11 . The shallot is found in fourth place in terms of its flavonoid content, among ten varieties of onions 9 . It should be noted that onions are an important source of flavonoids, particularly in the form of quercetin, in the diet 9 .

The shallot also contains significant amounts of beta-carotene, a compound in the carotenoid family. The latter have antioxidant properties 12 . For comparison, 125 ml (1/2 cup) of shallot contains approximately 600 ug of beta-carotene, while red pepper and cantaloupe, known for their high beta-carotene content, contain two and three respectively. times more.

Sulfur compounds . The shallot contains certain sulfur compounds, which are less well known than those present in other alliaceae, such as garlic, for example 13 . The protective effect of alliaceae against certain cancers – mainly those of the digestive system 3-6  – seems to be linked to their content of sulfur compounds 3 . Moreover, it is these substances which give them their characteristic taste 3 . To date, the effects of the sulfur compounds of the shallot have not been specifically evaluated.

Antimicrobial effect . Shallot extracts, like garlic and onion extracts, have shown an antimicrobial effect in vitro against fungi and bacteria 14 . Researchers have isolated in the shallot a specific peptide which is partly responsible for its antifungal action 15 . Other proteins or peptides of the shallot could also contribute to this effect, but that remains to be verified. In addition, studies in humans should be carried out before concluding that there is an antimicrobial effect linked to the consumption of shallots.

Other properties

Is shallot antioxidant? We know that the shallot contains antioxidant substances, but its TAC index is not available.
Is the shallot acidifying? No data available
Does the shallot have a high glycemic load? No data available

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

Good source Vitamin B6 . Shallots are a good source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine , is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the manufacture of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to carry more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells.

Source Phosphorus . Shallots are a source of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

Source Magnesium . Shallots are a source of magnesium only for women, the needs of men being greater. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Source Potassium . Shallots are a source of potassium. In the body, it is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Source Iron . Shallots are a source of iron. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin (like the shallot) is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.

Source Manganese . Shallots are a source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

Source Copper . Shallots are a source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.

Source Folate . Shallots are a source of folate. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.

Source Vitamin C . Shallots are a source of vitamin C. The role that vitamin C plays in the body goes beyond its antioxidant properties; it also contributes to the health of bones, cartilage, teeth and gums. In addition, it protects against infections, promotes the absorption of iron from plants and accelerates healing.

Source Vitamin A . Shallots are a source of vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene. Vitamin A is one of the most versatile vitamins, playing a role in several body functions. It collaborates, among other things, in the growth of bones and teeth. It keeps the skin healthy and protects against infections. In addition, it has antioxidant properties and promotes good vision, especially in the dark.

What is a “portion” of shallots worth?
Weight / volume Shallot, chopped, ½ cup (125 ml / 84 g)
Calories 61
Protein 2.1g
Carbohydrates 14.2 g
Fat 0.1g
Dietary fiber 1.8g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.

Quercetin and lactose intolerance In lactose
intolerant individuals, the activity of lactase is reduced, sometimes even absent. Lactase is the enzyme that allows the digestion of lactose present in milk and in certain dairy products. This enzyme could also play a role in the digestion and absorption of quercetin, a flavonoid found in vegetables of the alliaceae family 16 . An in vitro study has shown that lactase can improve the absorption of quercetin from foods, including shallots and onions . 16 However, human studies will need to be done to accurately assess the absorption of this flavonoid in people who are lactose intolerant.

The shallot over time

The term ”  shallot  “, which was written escaluigne (also eschalogne or escalone ) in the XII th  century, will become final in the XVI th  century, under the influence of Latin ascalonia CINE . This term literally means “onion of Ascalon” (or Ashkelon), a prosperous city in ancient Palestine which was taken from the Egyptians during the crusades in 1099, and which today belongs to Israel. According to legend, the Crusaders discovered the shallot there and brought it back with them.

”  Calf’s head  “, ”  Poitou red  “, ”  chicken leg  “, ”  turkey leg  “, ”  semi-long pear  “, these are some of the many vernacular names under which it can be found.

The term “  onion potato  ” sometimes appears in specialized catalogs. This is a literal translation of the English potato onion . In reality, the potato onion is simply a variety of shallots, which only forms a few large round bulbs where other varieties would form several smaller, elongated ones.

What is called “shallot” in Quebec is actually the green onion . The shallot is often called “French shallot”.

The shallot is rarely sold before maturity. When it is, its flavor differs greatly from that of onion, although it can be similar to that of green onion.

Note that, according to the new botanical nomenclature, plants of the genus Allium now belong to the family of alliaceae, although they are still sometimes classified as liliaceae or amaryllidaceae.

It has long been believed that, under the botanical name of Allium  ascalonicum , the shallot was a species in itself. Now, thanks to molecular analyzes, we now know that it is a subspecies of the onion ( A. cepa var.  Aggregatum ), especially since the two plants cross without difficulty. , a sign of close relatives. This does not prevent them from being very different from each other. An exception to this rule is the shallot , the favorite of gourmets, which is related to the species Allium oschaninii , and which is still found in the wild in the Middle East.

The shallot comes – like its cousin onion – from southwest Asia, the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East. Under the pressure of selection, we would have obtained from the onion, varieties very different from what we knew until then. This transformation would have occurred at the turn of our era, or even before, because the shallot was already used at that time in Persia and Assyria. In France, we find it under Charlemagne (circa 600 AD). It will reach America from colonization: it will be particularly appreciated in Louisiana, where the Cajuns always give it a big place in their cuisine.

In the minds of many, the shallot remains intimately linked to the French terroir. In fact, the village of Busnes in Pas-de-Calais has organized its famous shallot fair every year since 1987, where the gastronomic chapter of the Order of Busnes shallots features prominently.

Nickname or real shallots?

There is some controversy currently in France about the shallot. According to a marketing order dating from 1990, “can only be sold under the name of shallots products from a bulb multiplication”. Now, in 1995, Dutch breeders put shallots from seeds, which are easier to produce industrially, on the market. These are also grown outside the regions traditionally devoted to this culture.

For some, this initiative sounds the death knell of true shallots of French terroir (the “traditional shallots”), which were grown in home gardens since the Middle Ages and since the XVII th  century, in the fields of Britain and Loire Valley, where they are said to have found their exceptional land.

These pseudo-shallots are essentially criticized for their variability. Some would have the typical shape of the shallot, others would look more like an onion, and others would be in between. The flavor is not homogeneous either.

You should know that a product resulting from vegetative propagation is, in fact, a clone and that, therefore, it always has the same characteristics, which are generally the result of hundreds, even thousands of years of selection.

In order to obtain comparable results with seed products, significant work is needed to stabilize the variety, which, in the opinion of the French, Dutch breeders have not done. The latter claim that there is no difference between their products and traditional shallots. They even claim that they are doing a service to the public by offering them a quality product at a lower cost. They also dispute the right of France to issue decrees prohibiting the free movement of goods.

How can consumers find their way around? Molecular analyzes as well as the use of a new technology, the “electronic language”, will perhaps help to clarify the question. According to the first results obtained, there would indeed be differences between the traditional shallots and the new shallots from seeds which, in general, would be much closer to the onion.

Certainly, the gray shallot completely escapes this debate. Indeed, it cannot be reproduced by seed.

Culinary uses

To access other recipes, you can go to the cooking recipe site, which offers, among other things, the following recipes: shallot flank steak, shallot  sauce , candied shallots

Choose well

Buy very firm, germ-free bulbs.

To peel, first cut the shallot in half lengthwise. The operation will be less painful for the eyes, especially for the gray, extremely “tear”.

Culinary dishes

  • The shallot is used in many classic sauces of French cuisine: bearnaise , devil’s , bordelaise , de Bercy , etc.
  • In Brittany, the scallops are served with the shallot of the soil.

  • In Nantes, it is used to make the famous Nantes white butter prepared with salted butter, shallots and a little cider vinegar. This involves melting the chopped shallots in the vinegar until they have completely evaporated, then pressing them in a muslin to extract the juices. When ready to serve, put the juices in a bain-marie with a spoonful of crème fraîche, then gradually incorporate butter as it melts, without ceasing to whisk.
  • Prepare a cold shallot soup , consisting of butter, milk, fromage blanc, chicken broth, potatoes, shallots and parsley.
  • Shallot vinegar: mince the shallots and macerate them in the vinegar. Use it for salad dressings or to deglaze baking dishes.
  • Do not discard the shallots which are starting to germinate . They are delicious raw or cooked. Besides, in Louisiana, we cultivate a variety for its green stems which we use to replace green onions.
  • Shallots in papillotes are prepared by sprinkling them with olive oil, wrapping them in aluminum foil and baking them for about twenty minutes at 180 ° C (350 ° F). Serve them with meat or fish. They can be caramelized at the end of cooking by sprinkling them with sugar.
  • The shallot flank steak is the most popular dish in French bistros. The tab is also prepared this way. We will first cook steaks on both sides, then put them in a hot dish. Discard the excess fat, put back the butter and cook the minced shallots. Salt, pepper, sprinkle with wine or cider vinegar. Remove from heat and stir in a final knob of butter. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, cover them with shallots and serve immediately with fries.
  • In Ivory Coast , we bread and fry fresh sardines in oil and accompany them with a vinegar in which the shallots soak.
  • Shallots are also widely consumed in Malaysia and Indonesia . It is used fresh, fried or marinated.


The shallot does not keep for several weeks after its harvest in the fall. Hence the difficulty of finding it out of season. The other varieties keep for a few months.

Keep all types of shallots dry and at room temperature in a paper bag or mesh bag. Avoid the refrigerator and hot places, especially near the stove.

Organic gardening

The shallot is planted in the fall at the same time as the garlic, 10 cm or 15 cm apart. Protect it from cold and temperature changes by applying a good mulch after planting. Remove the mulch in the spring to allow the soil to thaw, then put it back a few weeks later to prevent the weeds from emerging. Like all alliaceae, shallots are a poor competitor against weeds. The other types of shallots are planted early in the spring, as soon as it is possible to go to the garden.

Choose medium or large bulbs for planting rather than the smallest, the latter’s nutrient reserves being insufficient to ensure good growth and, consequently, a good harvest. Do not plant a sick or desiccated bulb. The roots being superficial, it is important to irrigate regularly. However, all watering will be stopped two or three weeks before the harvest, which in Quebec is done in July or August.

Although the shallot needs a good supply of nitrogen, avoid late spreading at the risk of compromising the quality of the bulb during storage. The first green stems can be harvested one or two months after planting or emergence. Depending on the variety, the bulbs will take 90 to 120 days to ripen. After harvesting, dry the bulb with its tops in a ventilated place. The tops will only be removed when the bulb is completely dry.

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