Mar 1, 2015

Winter-must-have vegetable ☆Nebuka onion

After the last few cold,  gusty, and miserable days, I trudged down to my vegetable garden which is blanketed with a foot of snow. Nebuka onions lie dormant under this snow and are ready to go from my garden to kitchen. Never heard of Nebuka onion? It's a tasty winter-must-have vegetable, and one vegetable that you'll never regret growing.

Nebuka (which means "deep rooted" in Japanese) onion is a kind of Japanese bunching onion, which doesn't develop a bulb (onion). We usually don't use the green leaves but use the long white stalk for cooking. At maturity the stalk is 15-20" long and up to 1" in diameter. The stalk of Nebuka onions are essential to Japanese, Chinese and Korean cooking. They're used for grilling, stir frying and  in traditional winter dishes, such as hot pot and soup. They taste sweet and smooth when cooked and spicy when raw. Therefore we usually use uncooked onions as a small portion of garnish. In Korean cooking, however, there is a raw stalk salad, which makes a use of its spicy characteristic, and goes well with Korean BBQ. The Nebuka onion isn't only a great support actor, but can also be the star, depending on how you cook. Although Nebuka onions are sold in the supermarket all year round in Asia, their prime seasons are fall and winter. When Nebuka onions are exposed to cold temperature, they start retaining sugar in the stalk to avoid freezing. This produces their characteristic  sweet taste.

Under the white blanket.

As the ground was frozen, half of the stalk could not be harvested.

It's a little known fact that the white long stalks of Nebuka onion are "man made".  Commercial growers dig a deep dich to plant then cover and re-cover the stalk with soil 3-4 times as it grows. The stalk isn't exposed to the sun and doesn't photosynthesize, so it becomes white and soft. This unique growing method is not commonly known, even by Japanese. Though Nebuka has the best flavor in winter, they can be an all year round vegetable. They can be harvested at several growing stages, and  used many different ways depends on how tender is the leaf or how long is the white stalk. If you omit the "man made" process, and harvest when they're still tiny, you can use Nebuka just like Scallions (green onions/ spring onions) sold at supermarkets in the states.

The cultivar of Nebuka onion I grow here in northern Pennsylvania is Ishikura Long Winter, which has about a 15-17" white stalk with about 12" long leaves when mature. I bought quality seeds at KITAZAWA SEED CO. They are easy to grow,  resistance pests, the flower attracts bees, and are extremely cold hardy. Here it gets -20F with continuous,deep snow, but they survive without any protection. I'll post more about how to grow Nebuka onions and recipes later.

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