Traditional uses and benefits of Chinese Onion

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Chinese onion Quick Facts
Name: Chinese onion
Scientific Name: Allium chinense
Origin Occurs spontaneously in Central and Eastern China (in Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces) and in Japan, Korea, Russia and Mongolia
Taste Acrid, sweet
Health benefits Support stuffiness sensation and pain in the chest, angina pectoris, pleurisy, bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery, mental stress, heart problems, and tumors, headaches.
Chinese Onion scientifically known as Allium chinense is a perennial herb belonging to Liliaceae (Lily family). Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and garlic. The plant occurs spontaneously in Central and Eastern China (in Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces) and in Japan, Korea, Russia and Mongolia. It is widely cultivated in China and Japan. It is also cultivated in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) and introduced with oriental emigrants from this region into further areas, e.g. the United States (Hawaii, California) and Cuba. Apart from Chinese onion it is also known as Baker’s Garlic, Chinese Scallion, Chinese Shallots, Japanese Scallion, Kiangsi Scallion, Kiangsi Shallot, Oriental Onion, Rakkyo, Small Angled Chives, Small angled chives, Chinese chives, glittering chive, Naga garlic, Glittering chive, Small angled chives and Oriental scallion.

It is known to be cultivated in some parts of North-Eastern regions of India as well. It is a popular vegetable in East Asia, where it is widely cultivated for its edible bulb and leaves, and is often sold in local markets. It is found mainly in the tropical and sub-tropical areas of Japan, China and many other parts of eastern Asia. Allium chinense is a widespread, extensively cultivated species with no known threats; although its exact distribution and ecology are not know due to such a long history of cultivation for Chinese cooking. In hill areas of Manipur, the inflorescences are eaten raw with dry beef Ringneokashai or eaten in boiled vegetable soup. The bulbs and cloves are pickled in NE India, where it is popularly called Naga garlic. Chinese Onion is also known for insects and moles repelling characteristics, while its extract is used for moth control.

Chinese Onion Facts

Name Chinese onion
Scientific Name Allium chinense
Native Occurs spontaneously in Central and Eastern China (in Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces) and in Japan, Korea, Russia and Mongolia. It is widely cultivated in China and Japan. It is also cultivated in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) and introduced with oriental emigrants from this region into further areas, e.g. the United States (Hawaii, California) and Cuba
Common Names Baker’s Garlic, Chinese Onion, Chinese Scallion, Chinese Shallots, Japanese Scallion, Kiangsi Scallion, Kiangsi Shallot, Oriental Onion, Rakkyo, Small Angled Chives, Small angled chives, Chinese chives, glittering chive, Naga garlic, Glittering chive
Name in Other Languages Afrikaans: Chinese ui
Angami: Khova
Arabic : Tum El-Khabazeen, thum siniun (ثوم صيني)
Bulgarian: Kitaĭski luk (китайски лук)
Chinese : Cong He Xie (葱和薤), Hsieh, Xie-Tou, Hsieh- Tou, Jiao Tou (茭头), Ku Jiao, Qiao Tou Tsung Tao, Xie, Ying Xie, Lěi tóu (蕌头 ), Lěi tóu xiè (蕌头薤) ,  Hé xiè (和薤) , Tou (头)
Czech : Česnek Rakijo
Danish : Rakkyo, Rakkyoløg
English: Chinese onion, Chinese scallion, Japanese scallion, Oriental onion, rakkyo, Kiangsi scallion
Estonian : Rakkiolauk
Finnish : Valkoruohosipuli
French : Échalote Chinoise, Rakkyo, oignon de Chine      
German: Rakkyo
Greek: Állio to kinezikó (Άλλιο το κινεζικό)
Hebrew : Shum sini
Hungarian: Iyabasi
Indonesia: Longkio, Bawang Kucai ( Java ) Bawang Ganda ( Malay )
Japanese: Rakkyō, Rakkyou, Esharetto (エ シャレット ), Hana Rakkyou, Shima Rakkyou, Tama Rakkyou, Rakky, Hana rakkyō (花ラッキョウ ), Shima rakkyou (島らっきょう),  Tama rakkyou (タ マラッキョウ)
Korean : Yeom Kyo (염 교), yeom bu chu (염부추), yeomgyo 
Malaysia : Lokyo
Mizo: Thip-pu-run
Polish : Szczypiorek chiński
Portuguese : Chalota Chinesa, cebola-da-china 
Russian: Luk kitayskiy (лук китайский)
Spanish : Chalote Chinesa, Cebollino De La China, Cebolinha para picles, rakkyo
Swedish : Rakkyolök
Tangkhul: Somri
Thailand : Mee Yoi, Krathiam-Chin, Hom-Prang, Hom-Paenyuak, Hom prang, Krathiam chin (กระเทียมจีน)
Vietnamese : Kieu, Củ Kiệu
Plant Growth Habit Evergreen, clustered, caespitose perennial, bulb-producing plant
Soil Prefers well-drained, friable and moderately fertile soils such as sandy loams and thrives in full sun. Too fertile soil such as the volcanic ash results in large and soft bulbs and a decrease in market value
Plant Size About 0.5 m tall
Root Adventitious roots
Bulb Narrowly ovoid to ellipsoid, 1–4 cm in diameter with a white, membranous coat which is often tinged with reddish purple and gradually merging into the leaf blades at the top
Leaf Hollow but the scape is solid. Leaves are distichous, cylindrical, hollow, 20–50 cm by 1–5 mm and 3–5 angled. Scape is lateral, 20–40 cm, terete and solid covered with leaf sheaths only at the base.
Flowering season August to September
Flower Flowers are campanulate, purplish with six tepals arranged in two whorls, six stamens and a pistil longer than the tepals. Filaments equal, 1.5 × as long as tepals, connate at base and adnate to tepals
Propagation By division
Taste Acrid, sweet
Plant Parts Used Flowers, oil, leaves, root

Plant Description

Chinese onion is an evergreen, clustered, caespitose perennial, bulb-producing plant that normally grows about 0.5 m tall from an underground bulb. The plant divides, forming in time a clump of growth. The plant prefers well-drained, friable and moderately fertile soils such as sandy loams and thrives in full sun. Too fertile soil such as the volcanic ash results in large and soft bulbs and a decrease in market value. It is tolerant of a range of growing conditions. These plants may go dormant in early summer, and return to growing during monsoon or at the latest, fall. They multiply almost as much as multiplier onions.

Bulb

Bulbs are narrowly ovoid to ellipsoid, 1–4 cm in diameter with a white, membranous coat which is often tinged with reddish purple and gradually merging into the leaf blades at the top.

Leaves

Leaves are bright green, hollow but the scape is solid. Leaves are slender and thin-walled, distichous, cylindrical, hollow, 20–50 cm long and 1–5 mm wide and 3–5 angled. Scape is lateral, 20–40 cm, terete and solid covered with leaf sheaths only at the base.

Flowers

Inflorescence consists of a hemispheric umbel with 6–30 lax flowers with two-lobed persistent spathe on a stalk 40-60 cm long. Flowers are campanulate, purplish with six tepals arranged in two whorls, six stamens and a pistil longer than the tepals. Filaments are equal, 1.5 × as long as tepals, connate at base and adnate to tepals; outer ones subulate; inner ones broadened at base, one toothed on each side. The ovary is obovoid–globose, with concave nectaries covered by hood like projections at the base. Style exserted. Flowering normally takes place in between August to September.

Chinese onions are a rich source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. They also contain fructan, which helps to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease; selenium, which has anti-cancer effects; and saponin.

Traditional uses and health benefits of Chinese onion

  • Chinese onion is astringent, carminative and expectorant and is used in the treatment of stuffiness sensation and pain in the chest, angina pectoris, pleurisy, bronchitis, diarrhea and tenesmus in cases of dysentery.
  • Chinese onion is used as a folk medicine in tonics to help the intestines and as a stomachic.
  • They contain sulphur compounds and when added to the diet on a regular basis they help reduce blood cholesterol levels, act as a tonic to the digestive system and also tonify the circulatory system.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine, plant bulbs are reputed to cure mental stress, heart problems, and tumors etc., and are also incorporated in several medicinal preparations.
  • The bulbs of Chinese onions are said to be good for heart problems, headaches and tumors.

Culinary Uses

  • The bulbs and leaves are edible raw or cooked.
  • Bulbs are used raw or fried mixed with other vegetables in Indonesia.
  • Bulbs are widely used as sweet or sour pickles after steeping in salt for several days.
  • In Japan, they are used mainly in pickles as side dishes, often eaten with Japanese curry.
  • It is used as a pickled meal during Vietnamese New Year – Tet celebrations.
  • Leaves can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Flowers and young seedpods can be consumed raw.
  • It is used as a garnish on salads.
  • Chinese onion is often pickled and served as a side dish in Japan and Vietnam to balance the stronger flavor of some other component in a meal.
  • It is eaten as a garnish on Japanese curry.
  • Bulbs are consumed raw or cooked.
  • It has an excellent crisp texture with a strong onion flavor.
  • Bulbs are often steeped in brine and subsequently processed into sweet or sour pickles and served as a side dish in Japan and Vietnam.
  • In North-East regions of India the bulbs crushed or mixed with chili and some dried meats served as favorite part of a meal.
  • The Leaves, flowers and young seed pods are consumed raw or cooked.
  • They are used raw as a garnish on salads
  • It may be used as a topping for dishes like miso soup.
  • They may also be served with sushi, which helps to balance any saltiness.
  • Chinese onions are most often steeped in brine before being marinated in vinegar, sake and sugar.

Other Facts

  • The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent.
  • The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles.
  • In Vietnam, pickled Chinese onion is traditionally served for New Year.

Precautions

  • There have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus.
  • Do not apply on sores.
  • Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=506482#null

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Allium+chinense

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium_chinense

https://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Chinese%20Onion.html

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/ALLCH

http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Allium+chinense

http://www.narc.gov.jo/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=101417

https://inaturalist.nz/taxa/122344-Allium-chinense

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-295288

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/4240

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/202608/#b

https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=ALCH5

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