Grown commercially in the Loire Valley and Brittany, shallots have been an essential ingredient in French cuisine for centuries. Some say they were brought back to France after the siege of Ascalon (Ashkelon in modern Israel) after the First Crusade in 1099; the word échalote is said to derive from ascalonia.
Some 20 varieties are cultivated in France. The long red or reddish-brown ones are the most common, while échalotes grises or grey ones, are said to be the tastiest, and the rose-coloured échalote d'Anjou is the most potent shallot of them all.
Images by alidromais, David Monniaux