Allium ascalonicum

Herbs gallery - Shallots

Shallots are a type of onions that are smaller in size. An alternative name for these vegetables is eschallots. They resemble garlic not only due to their size but also the internal structure. They consist of cloves, instead of the concentric structure that is typical for onions. However, the pulp is sometimes striped with red or purple lines, similar to some onion varieties. The taste is very strong and closely resembles the one of both garlic and onions.

The color of shallots is variable, from brown to copper, grey or even pink. The grey varieties are named griselle in French and are very popular in the local cuisine because the chefs consider them to have a richer taste than other onion types. As a result, French shallots are exported to many countries, for example to the USA.

Shallots are part of the Allium family that includes onion, garlic as well as the smaller chives, with the scientific name Allium ascalonicum or Allium cepa var. aggregatum. It is believed that the native range of shallots was either in Southeast Asia or the central parts of the continent. It was later introduced in India and the eastern Mediterranean basin. It reached Europe during the Crusades, when it was introduced from the Middle East by returning soldiers. The internal structure consists of cloves, similar to the ones of garlic. Otherwise they closely resemble onions but are actually a separate species, not an onion variety. The taste is somewhere between onion and garlic but tends to be milder.

Shallots can successfully replace garlic and onions in most recipes. Due to their milder flavour, they don't cause your mouth to smell as bad as onions or garlic. Shallots is a name used for green onions in Australia but these are a separate species. They are also sometimes confused with pickling onions. Several cultivated varieties exist, for example the banana shallot with a longer shape. They have a shorter shelf life than normal onions and also a faster cooking time.

In many recipes, shallots are paired with wine since they complement each other very well. In cooking, they can be saut´┐Żed or fried. Similar to related onion and garlic, their taste becomes too strong if they are overcooked. A trick used by some cooks is to leave the skin while the shallots are roasted and only peel them afterwards. This vegetable is also an ingredient in sauces with cream or butter.

Shallots can be combined with all types of meat, like beef, veal, chicken and duck, as well as fish. They also provide flavor to some vegetarians dishes based on carrots or beets, as well as meals where beans or lentils are the main ingredient. The taste of shallots pairs well with chervil, thyme and tarragon. Shallots are consumed all over the world but are especially popular in Asian cuisine. They are a common ingredient of Malaysian stir fry dishes and can also be processed into a type of condiment that is used in Indonesia and Thailand.

Health benefits

Shallots are rich in nutrients but probably their most important benefit to health is the high amount of antioxidants. They include several compounds that have this effect, such as kaempferol, quercetin and some sulfuric substances. Just like in the case of garlic, breaking the surface of shallots cells releases these antioxidants and they also produce allicin, another powerful compound with a bioactive role. Allicin is considered to be very strong against cancer because it prevents mutations at a cellular level. Modern researchers have validated the effectiveness of shallots as a natural remedy for cancers of the stomach, colorectal and breast, as well as the mouth and lungs.

The mineral composition is similar to the one of garlic or onions, but shallots are usually a richer source of copper, potassium and iron. All of these minerals are essential for a healthy body. Iron and copper are required for the production of red blood cells, so they can increase circulation. A more effective circulation increases the supply of oxygen to all parts of the body, improving the metabolism and the rate of cell development and repair.

When the cells of shallots are destroyed through dicing or slicing, a very powerful compound named allicin is formed. Besides its effect against cancer, it has been found to balance the overall levels of cholesterol. It is an indirect mechanism, since allicin blocks the synthesis of a reductase enzyme in the liver, which controls the production of cholesterol. This type of fat is very dangerous and high levels lead to heart attacks, strokes, atherosclerosis and many other heart conditions.

Allicin also releases nitric oxide in the blood stream, which can greatly reduce blood pressure. The effect is even stronger because shallots also provide potassium, a mineral that dilates blood vessels. If their walls expand and become more relaxed, blood can flow easily, without any stress. The free flow of blood prevents the formation of clots and is key for a healthy heart.

Allium and allyl disulfide are two phytochemical compounds provided by shallots that are known to balance the level of glucose in the blood stream. This effect is extremely useful for people who suffer from diabetes, since they need to control their blood sugar level at all times and prevent any dangerous spikes.

Pyridoxine, combined with the package of vitamins and minerals in shallots, is a compound known to boost the production of GABA at brain level. This chemical plays a key role in regulating the release of hormones and is known to reduce stress. Consuming shallots can provide immediate stress relief by increasing the release of GABA. The vegetable also provides large amounts of folic acid. This compound is part of the B-vitamin complex and regulates brain enzymes and hormones, which can restore mental health and emotional balance.

Vitamin A is critical for a healthy life and shallots are one of the best natural sources for it. It is a very powerful antioxidant that can shield tissues from the destructive action of free radicals. Antioxidants improve the response of our immune system but vitamin A is especially active at eye and skin level, preventing infections and protecting membranes from harm.

The chemical composition of this vegetable makes it an excellent choice for a healthy diet. It has a very low content of fat and sodium. Sodium is needed by our body in moderate amounts but too much of it can be dangerous for health because it raises blood pressure. This must be avoided by people who already have high pressure, as well as those who suffer from kidney disorders. As a results, shallots are a great flavoring ingredient, since most other spices have a very high amount of sodium.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can become a lot more painful than normal if the level of vitamin B6 is too low, which also makes all other symptoms of this disease more serious. RA causes long-term inflammation that leads to joint pain and permanent muscle strain, so modern research has established that people with this condition need an increased supply of vitamin B6. This vitamin is known to reduce the pain in both joints and muscles, which is a great benefit for patients with arthritis. A serving of shallots provides about 27% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin B6, a total of 0.345 mg.

Just like garlic, shallots have an antiseptic effect and can kill pathogens and prevent infections or inflammation due to some biochemical reactions. There seem to be multiple reasons for this effect, which are being investigated by scientists. The enzymes with antioxidant properties supplied by shallots are able to fight infections and some common diseases.

Several studies have also revealed that shallots are effective against fungi, including the widespread Candida types. Consuming shallots is a natural way to combat these fungi, without side effects or unhealthy compounds like sugar.

Shallots also provide EEOs that inhibit the build-up of fats and might be a great tool against obesity, according to recent studies. Obesity is one of the most common disorders of today's world and the root cause for many diseases. These include health problems, cancer, diabetes and many other chronic and long-term conditions. Shallots might be an effective natural way to prevent weight gain and all of the health issues related to it.

Many kids have a lack of appetite but this problem can be countered with an increased supply of iron. A recent study of Kenyan primary school children published in The Journal of Nutrition has revealed that kids had a better appetite and developed faster when given iron supplements. As a result, including iron-rich shallots in the diet of your kid can be very rewarding and balance any deficiency of this key mineral. Other foods rich in iron are spinach, black beans as well as animal liver.

Shallots also provide generous amounts of copper. This mineral plays many roles in the body but is critical for the thyroid function. However, the amount of copper in your diet must be very carefully balanced. Too much of it can cause thyroid malfunction, which in turn leads to either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, with a severely impaired hormonal flow. A serving of shallots supplies almost 10% of the daily required amount for this mineral.