Small onion or shallot is a vegetable scientifically known as ‘Allium cepa var. aggregatum’ from the botanical family ‘Amaryllidaceae’. It is a cultivar- a plant variety specially produced through selective breeding- which is used almost as widely as the onion, the second most famous and used vegetable in the world after tomato.
Shallots are used in sliced, diced, minced or mashed forms mainly for seasoning certain dishes and for making curries across the continents. It is also used as a folk medicine to treat certain ailments.
The vegetable is the underground stem or the bulb of the onion plants that are supposed to have originated in the Middle-East thousands of years ago. Shallot was introduced to Europe in the 13th century by the crusaders who returned from Palestine.
Shallot, just like other onion varieties is one of the vegetables that are easy to grow as the same has lesser pest issues compared to most other vegetables. Shallots can be cultivated on various types of soils like sandy loam, silt loam and clay loam soils. However, clay loam or sandy loam soils with good fertility and drainage to prevent the plants from rotting are the best soils for the cultivation of shallots that require mild climatic conditions without excessive cold or heat.
The plants normally grow 1-2 feet in height and take 4-5 months to be ready for harvest. Though shallots are planted and harvested in particular seasons they can also be cultivated throughout the year.
Shallot grows in clusters unlike the onion and it is found in many varieties. Some of the main varieties are the Jersey shallot-also called pink shallot, grey shallot and banana shallot- also known as Echalion. Shallots are pungent to various degrees due to the presence of certain chemicals that can make the eyes tear up.
Shallots contain protein, carbs, fat, calcium, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, folate, iron, natural sugar and vitamins A and C. They are also purported to improve heart and bone health, regulate blood sugar levels and cure seasonal allergies. Today shallots are one of the most required and unavoidable ingredients for cooking throughout the world.
The largest producer of shallot or small onion in the world is China, followed by India and Pakistan. The largest exporter also is China, followed by India, Mexico and Pakistan, while the main importer is the US, followed by Malaysia and UAE.
In India, the largest producer of shallot or small onion is Tamil Nadu, followed by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Some of the major trading markets of small onion in India:
Tamil Nadu (Tiruppur, Trichy, Namakkal, Dindigul)
Karnataka (Belgaum, Kolar, Chitradurga)
Andhra Pradesh (Kurnool, Vijayawada, Denduluru)
Names of small onion in different Indian languages:
Hindi Chote pyaaz
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