Shallots: a research at the forefront … of taste

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To raise the flavor of a fish or give a touch of originality to a green salad, what better than a finely chopped shallot? But gray shallot or pink shallot?

Shallot “gardens” and shallots “fields”

The gray shallot e is most appreciated by gourmets. It is grown mainly in vegetable gardens. It can be kept only a few weeks after its harvest in the fall. Hence the difficulty of finding out of season.

The pink or Jersey shallot constitutes the bulk of French vegetable production. Indeed, this shallot can be kept 6 months without problem which allows a more flexible marketing. It is therefore the subject of all the attention of researchers who are dedicated to the improvement of  shallot varieties . Research that requires a lot of perseverance and great technicality …

The meaning of progress

The selection of shallot began in the early 1970s at INRA. The creation of new varietieswas then essentially oriented towards agronomic objectives. The first thing was to obtain plants without flowering. Indeed, the appearance of a flowering stalk reduces the yield of bulbs. Low susceptibility to diseases and parasites, or regular yield, were also taken into account.

A more attractive shallot

Today, in addition to these agronomic aspects of the characteristics associated with the marketing and use by gardeners who wish to plant shallots. We seek to obtain attractive presentation bulbs, firm, well colored flesh and which are well preserved. Another desired property is a high dry matter content (ie low water content bulbs) because the taste value seems to be correlated with it.

Innovate by increasing the aromatic intensity

To create new varieties of shallot, researchers proceed by marriage of unpublished couples. As the genetic diversity within the Jersey shallot is quite limited, they achieve successful crosses with other botanical species of Allium with new and interesting qualities. With the gray shallot for example, which brings a strong aromatic intensity, but also with a species native to the foothills of the Himalayas which has a good resistance to diseases.

The shallot is good for your health

Like garlic or onion, shallot is known for its protective effects against certain cancers, particularly digestive. It has indeed a strong antioxidant activity thanks to a high content of flavonoids. It also has a significant amount of beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A and is a good source of vitamin B6, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and potassium. In short, the shallot is surprisingly rich in vitamins and minerals.

The anecdotes of the shallot

The shallot has many local appellations . Depending on the region, it may be called Veal Head, Poitou Red, Chicken Leg, Turkey Leg, or Half-Long Pear.

The shallot has health benefits . It is rich in vitamins and minerals. It also promotes the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, and has digestive properties.

Put a shallot to grow in a glass of water. You will then be able to use its leaves to pleasantly replace the chives.

What is called shallot in Quebec actually corresponds to scallion or green onion. It is often called the true shallot “shallot”.

Shallot, a fragrance of history

The shallot was a sacred food among the Persians, Egyptians and Hebrews. It would have been brought back to France at the time of the Crusades, the city of Ascalon in Palestine, but this version does not make the unanimity of the historians …

The term “shallot”, which was written escaluigne (also eschalogne or escalone) in the twelfth century, will take its final form in the sixteenth century.

Today France is the leading producer of shallots in Europe with 2,000 producers on 2,000 hectares. 40,000 tonnes of shallot are produced each year.

Dr. Kimberly Seltzer

Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley Research Assistant, MIT

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