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What Are Banana Shallots?

By G. D. Palmer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Banana shallots are a type of very large, elongated shallot, which are sweeter, milder relatives of the common onion. These alliums grow in clusters around the base of the plant and are less watery than most onions, with many very thin layers. Banana shallots can grow up to 7 inches (18 cm) in length and have smooth, brown skin with extremely mild flesh inside. They can be used in any recipe calling for ordinary shallots and some cooks prefer them because their large size makes them easier to prepare. You can store shallots for relatively long periods of time in a cool, dry location.

Shallots are members of the same species as the common multiplier onion, but grow in groups around the plant stem rather than as a single bulb. They have a flavor similar to regular onions, but are sweeter and milder, with fewer sulfurous compounds. All shallots are made up of very fine, thin layers and can be eaten either raw or cooked. Despite their similarity to onions, shallots cannot be substituted freely for these vegetables due to their different taste.

The largest of the shallots, the banana shallot grows to between 4 and 7 inches (10 and 18 cm) in length, and about 2 inches (5 cm) thick. It has a reddish brown to tan papery skin with purplish or white layered flesh that is moist but not wet. Some banana shallots contain more than one bulb inside of their skins, somewhat like garlic. This shallot is primarily planted from sets, which are about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and must be placed with part of the bulb protruding from the ground.

Cooking banana shallots works much like cooking any other shallot or onion. This food can be eaten raw, fried, or sauteed, or served as a pickle. Shallots are also grated or chopped for use in sauces and condiments. Due to these shallots' large size, they can be cut and peeled quickly, much like an onion, though dipping them briefly in boiling water makes the peeling process easier. Since banana shallots contain relatively little water, they must be cooked more gently than conventional onions, as very high heat increases the risk of burning the dish.

Banana shallots can be stored for several weeks at a time if placed in a cool, dry location away from windows or artificial lighting. Like onions, they tend to sprout when exposed to light, especially sunlight, and will rot if kept in a damp location. These vegetables can be stored in bags and bins or strung together and hung from the ceiling for drying.

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