Shallots


Shallots drying out

I always thought I’d make a good girl. Not bad at picking out dresses, pretty handy in the kitchen. You know, I think I’d be quite a catch for some lucky guy.

The great unknown, though, is the hair. Being as my hairline is receding rather quickly and I don’t live in the Sixties, a thick head of long wavy hair is something singularly missing from that old devil gazing adorably at me in the mirror in the mornings. This means that I am denied the opportunity to improve the hairstyling skills that would seal my claims for womanhood.

Happily the allotment, as well as providing hours of relaxation and food for the table, has somewhat unexpectedly come to the resuce in my bid to try out alternative gender roles.

As you can see from the pic above, the shallots (Longue de Bretagne) are starting to ripen and I’ve harvested the first lot. Much as I love the pungent devils though, I’m not going to eat quite that many at once, and one of the attractions of growing shallots is that they store so well and last for ages.

One of the most stylish ways to store them is to plait them and hang them up, thus turning a prosaic task – the storing of vegetables – into a work of art. And also giving Drooling a chance to demonstrate, through the medium of alliums, the ability to plait hair in a fashing that would truly merit the title “lady”. If I can do it with shallots, surely, then hair would be no problem?

So off we went. A quick tour of the internet suggested that plaiting the shallots before they dry is best – otherwise they become too brittle and less pliable. They can then dry out while tastefully dangling from the beams in your farmhouse kitchen. After that the instructions got a little vaguer and I found precious few useful diagrams or instructions. Still, how hard can it be for a wannabe woman?

Three shallots together. Cross the stem of the left over into the middle. Then the stem of the right, then repeat. Add in another three shallots and watch the plait start to take shape. Just tuck that shallot back in there….left stem over into the middle…might need a bit of string to keep that row nice and tidy…add another row of shallots…the rustic look is good, no need to make it too neat…bit more string…just need the scissors to snip off that little piece sticking out there…whooaah, what happened to that row? One more row to go…and there we are! Just tie that off at the top and see how it looks hanging up…

Imagine you saw a beautiful woman with hair plaited like this: Irresistible, no?

What do you mean? It’s all the rage this season! Haven’t you seen the plaits on the Paris catwalks – “tousled and unkempt” is the look of 2009. Philistines!

Still, probably best I don’t have to do this on a regular basis.

On the ipod while imagining what it would be like to have one of these dangling down the back of my neck: Blur / Boys and Girls

Very talented.

Allow me to introduce the Attenboroughs. Three very gifted siblings, all in the same family. (Bear with me on this, it is a gardening blog entry…) There’s Richard, the Oscar-winning actor and director, David, the naturalist who surely needs no further introduction and then there’s John.

I don’t know much about John but by all accounts he’s a big cheese in his chosen world, the motor industry, and for him to be a comparative failure would really screw up my analogy, so who am I to argue?

Three super-talented individuals, all slightly different but all with fundamentally the same genes and theĀ  same family name.

Which brings us nicely to the Allium family, the Attenboroughs of the plant world. (See! Got there in the end!)

All of these heroes have a starring role in my garden and allotment. The onions, leeks and shallots are my absolute bankers in the eating stakes: dead easy to grow, practically impervious to bugs and slugs, staggeringly low maintenance and incredibly long lasting. In my book that makes for perfection, and I’ve got healthy looking crops of white and red onions, Musselburgh leeks and Shallots (Longue de Bretagne) doing very nicely thank you very much.

And happily now that the daffodils and the tulips have faded away, my alliums are taking pride of place in the flower bed. Purple Sensation and Globe Master are thriving right now, to be followed by my favourite, Sphaerocephalum, in a month or two.

Lastly there’s the littel chives in the pic at the top. They’ve sat there happily for years,dying down in the winter and then flowering and pushing up fat chives all year long. I don’t use them for much – pretty much just chopping them up and sprinkling over a potato salad – but they’re still a great thing to have to hand.

Masters of the herb, vegetable and flower worlds. Could you find another family whose members have so effortlessless dominated in their chosen careers? Apart from the Attenboroughs, of course…

On the ipod while…ahem…watching Britain’s Got Talent: The Beautiful South / Prettiest Eyes. Not you, Boyle.

Look!

Look! Can you see what I can see! It’s the first signs of life on my allotment!

As the badly written label in the background will tell you, these are some of my shallots, but more importantly than that they are the first signs that my allotment is going to produce good things to eat.

These little babies are a couple of inches high, as are most of the others in their row. Elsewhere on the plot there are onions, red and white, doing much the same thing, and some tiny little carrot seedlings.

These latter have only germinated in half the row, which is puzzling. Perhaps a duff bunch of seeds, or – I fear – more likely, something wandered down the row munching its way through my seedlings before getting full about half way down and sloping off into the ether.

That is a worry for another day. For the time being, the main thing is that all my exaggerated fears about the shady nature of the plot, the overhanging trees, blah, blah, blah, were just a bit of beginner’s panic. These seedlings are at pretty much exactly the same stage as the onions at the bottom of the garden, which means that of course I can grow loads of stuff on the allotment.

So one more time, look at the seedlings!

Look at them!

On the ipod while marvelling at the wonders of nature: Blink 182 / I Miss You. I’d like to dedicate this song to the gaps in the row of carrot seedlings where little tufts of green should be…