Akanegi

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Akanegi

Akatsunegi

Akanegi or Akutsunegi has been grown in the city of Shirosato at least since the Meiji Era (1868). It is a native local variety, whose seeds, produced privately, have been passed along from generation to generation. It is one of the Ibaraki prefecture’s three traditional vegetables (Akanegi, Kaiji no Takana and Ukishima daikon). Botanically it belongs to the liliaceae family, genus and species “Allium fistulosum” The seeds are only grown privately. The Akanegi, compared to the long rooted white welsh onion, is sweeter and less hot and due to its tender leaves and stem it can be used as ingredient of nabemono (stew dishes) and misoshiru (miso soup). The usually white leaf sheath that becomes reddish purple is a distinctive genetic characteristic of the Akanegi. While the external part can reach 70-73 cm, the reddish purple leaf sheath is about 30 cm. The akanegi is a cold season cultivation but, with the introduction of a selection process to fix the original type, the actual growing period goes from 11 to 13 months of time, an unusually long growing period for a welsh onion. In this selection process the seeding is done mid-September. Then when winter is over, between the end of March and April, the plants which show the truest characteristics are selected. From the end of June and the beginning of July the selected plants are transplanted. Harvest and shipment start in November and go on until March of following year. The best season is between November and February. The cultivation site is on the right side of the middle course of Nakagawa river, naturally isolated and thus a perfect site to prevent the contamination of seeds. The cultivation is not the so-called “Ecofarming”, but “special farming” that cares about environmental preservation. Around 1982, to test whether a market could be developed, research meetings and seed exchanges between producers were held, working towards the fixing of the variety’s characteristics and the unique coloring (brownish-red/ reddish-purple). The selection of the plants, done at the same time of temporary planting, involves the reduction of white colored negi (onions) to about 10% of seedlings, variations between brownish reds to reddish purples and attempts to reduce the great size difference. The continuous effort put towards this kind of selection has, after 25 years, brought results. Now in order to plan the preservation of this original species, it has been decided to store the seeds at the Prefecture’s Agricultural Research Center, replacing them every 5 years. Unfortunately, producers are between 60 and 70 years old and, as new producers are few, there are uncertainties about the future of production sustainability. Moreover, because of the effort required for harvest, plant selection and the long growing period, it is difficult to lower production costs and at the same time the price on the market has dropped due to the arrival of new improved seed varieties. Now the producers need financial assistance for the registration of the “Red Poireu” trademark. Because funds are lacking it has not been registered yet, although it is very important in order to distinguish the ancient variety from the new ones (akanegi is a common name that means only red welsh onion). The akanegi, grown in the sandy soil of the Nakagawa River’s alluvial plane, is a traditional vegetable that has never been improved by hybridization and whose seeds have been produced at a family level for generations. The akanegi territory is located 20 km northwest of Mito, limited to the area of Akutsu in the city of Shirosato, thus the variety has come to be known as the Akutsu negi. This area is located near the Nakagawa River, a fertile alluvial plane. Its agriculture is mainly based on rice production, but also strawberries, tomatoes, melon, akanegi and apples are characteristic products of this region. The particular coloring of the leaves and the stalk of the akanegi, for a long period was thought to be a feature due to the characteristics of this land’s soils.

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