Rakkyō – Allium chinense

Rakkyō – Japanese scallion or Chinese scallion is a lightly flavoured member of the onion family. They have small bulbs when fully developed and it is an excellent vegetable in itself, but also a great addition to any dish where you want a fresh light onion like taste and texture added.

They have a growth pattern a lot like garlic where they develop as a green leaf for some time from autumn through to late spring and then bulb up during the early summer while the leaves start to die back for the dry summer heat period. And then the bulb matures for a few weeks as it dries out. They don’t like a lot of water at this last stage or they won’t mature properly and will not last well when pulled and stored.

Like garlic the flowers as far as I know rarely set viable seed so you need to get a division or stack of bulbs from someone. This may be different where they are heavily farmed in Japan, China and other regional neighbouring countries.

They are usually lightly pickled as bulbs but they taste good added to any dish and the leaves are a nice fresh flavour too – quite unlike any of the other onion group in taste and very mild.

You can identify Rakkyō fairly easily from chives, garlic and other members of the onion family by the leaf profile. When you cut through the green leaf it is a hollow tube and has six fairly clearly marked sides to the tube – like a triangle with corners cut.

rakkyo_03 raykkyo_02

The plants grow very densely and you need to stay on top of the weeding and make sure nothing intrudes into the growing space too much as they seem to not like weedy competition. (again – just like garlic).

They will respond very well if fed with lots of manure and watered well in the autumn, winter and early spring growth period when they are putting in green growth and bulking up.

They like full sun and can handle fairly high temps and will simply die back and recover from their bulbs if the summer is very hot and dry. I’m not sure how they handle the extreme cold but they seem to have no problems here in the mountains with a bit of snow and ice and (very) occasional temps down to about -2c and stay green and grow on.