Mongolian Wild Onion

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Mongolian Wild Onion


The Mongolian wild onion (Allium mongolicum), sometimes referred to as the desert onion, is a perennial from the family Amaryllidaceae. It grows in clumps, like chives, and has small bulbs with yellowish-brown skin. The leaves and scapes are narrow and tubular, and 10-30 centimeters long. Flowering usually occurs between July and August. The fresh shoots are the most commonly consumed part of the plant.

The Mongolian wild onion is originally from the sandy desert areas of Inner Mongolia and Gansu, where it grows wild at about 800-2800 meters above sea level. It is also grown in gardens. It is harvested especially in Minqin County and in the Tengger and Badain Jaran deserts. This area, through which the Silk Road once passed, is famous for its extremely large sand dunes (some of which rise several hundred meters) and for the serious ecological problem of desert encroachment, which is eliminating entire communities and forcing people to relocate. The Mongolian wild onion is highly resistant to drought, and its presence in desert areas helps keep the soil in place, combating erosion. Unfortunately, it is difficult to cultivate, yields little, and can only be harvested once a year for about thirty days.

The Mongolian wild onion is particularly rich in protein; vitamins; carotene; minerals such as zinc, phosphorus, selenium, and calcium; and amino acids including lysine, alanine, aspartate, and glutamic acid. It is mentioned eight times in Li Shizhen’s Compendium of Materia Medica (16th century), one of the most comprehensive texts on Chinese traditional medicine.

Mongolian wild onions are common in kitchens throughout northwestern China, and are treated similarly to scallions or chives. In one recipe, they are mixed with fresh mutton as a filling for traditional steamed dumplings, which are typically offered to guests. A pinch of chopped Mongolian wild onion (fresh, dried, or salted) imparts a fragrant pungency to soup.

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Inner Mongolia

Production area:Minqin county, Tengger and Badain Jaran deserts

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Spices, wild herbs and condiments

Nominated by:Ligong Zhao