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Vermont Garden Journal: Try These Garlic Relatives

You'll be harvesting shallots in early summer if you plant these gourmet treats in the fall.
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You'll be harvesting shallots in early summer if you plant these gourmet treats in the fall.

It's almost garlic planting season. Every garlic lover knows about soft neck garlic, for making garlic braids, and hard neck garlic, that produces tasty garlic scape. But, the garlic family planting shouldn't stop there. There are a few more choices that can be planted now for a summer harvest.

Shallots are small onions that have a delicate flavor. They are usually grown in spring, but I've found fall is a great time to plant them as well. You'll be harvesting these gourmet treats in early summer. Elephant garlic produces enormous bulbs that are twice the size of the largest, regular garlic. They're actually closely related to leeks and have a mild garlic  flavor. Elephant garlic’s taste is so mild you can even eat it raw in salads. It's a good substitute for those seeking a tamer garlic taste. Plant elephant garlic and shallots as you would regular garlic and protect them in winter with a thick layer of hay mulch.

Egyptian onions are also called winter onions, tree onions or walking onions. Unlike other onions in our climate, Egyptian onions are perennials. Each spring they sprout from bulbs and the green shoots can be used as scallions. Later in summer they form a set of small bulbs on the tops of the leaf stalks. When heavy enough, the bulbs tip over, contacting the ground and rooting. Over time it looks like the plant is walking across the garden. Harvest the topset of bulbs or the bulbs in the ground now, always leaving a few for next year. This onion’s flavor is stronger than a normal onion. To keep them under control, harvest the topsets, even if you aren’t using them.

Now for this week's tip: plant spring-flowering bulbs now in containers to be placed in a cold, but not freezing, basement or room for winter. It will take about 16 weeks of winter chilling before you can move the container into a sunny, warm room in late-February for forcing.

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