Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Kutsay (Allium tuberosum): A Spice and Vegetable

Kutsay is a spice-vegetable known as nira in Japanese,  gachoy in Cantonese, buchu in Korean, garlic chives, Chinese chives.
Dr Abe V Rotor
A country lass, Isang displays a rare phenomenon of tillers (young plants)* arising from the inflorescence of Allium tuberosum. Seeds normally reach maturity on the stalk (lower photo), before they are dehisced or disseminated by wind, animals and other means.     

Potted kutsay serves as ornamental and food condiment.  The plant is also repellant against flies, moths, mosquitoes and common garden pest, including African Giant Snail. Kutsay grows perennially owning to its tubers that can survive extreme drought, and spring back to robust vegetation come rainy season. The small bulbs or tubers are group in clusters.  In summer kutsay produces umbel inflorescence characteristic of members in the lily family (Alliaceae) to which onion and garlic belong - so with many ornamental lilies. 



We have never been without kutsay growing in our garden since I was a child. Dad would gather some leaves and add to fried or scrambled eggs. “It’s good to health," he would tell us. Miki (Ilocos noodle soup) is not complete without this spice-vegetable that has the combined flavor of garlic, chive and onion in a moderate degree. The seed contain edible oil which carries the characteristic flavor.  

Kutsay has antibacterial, anti-emetic, and stimulant properties. It improves circulation and digestion, and kidney function. It is used to treat urinary incontinence, kidney and bladder weaknesses. Traditional medicine recommends kutsay in the treatment of spermatorrhoea. (Spermatorrhoea is involuntary loss of semen, which generally takes place during sleep or under various conditions, like during urination. It is often associated with irritability and debility of the generative organs.).

I remember my Auntie Yaya applying mashed leaves of kutsay on sprain, cuts and bruises.  Our herbolario applied kutsay poultice on dog bite. Today we understand that this remedy is just a palliative measure to prevent infection and ease pain, and that medical attention is needed.

As a vegetable kutsay leaves are mixed with salad. They contain about 2.6% protein, 0.6% fat, 2.4% carbohydrate, 0.95% ash. They also contain small amounts of vitamins A, B1 and C. Flowers and flower buds make a delicious flavoring - raw or cooked - of many recipes of fish and meat. 

Next time you prepare scrambled egg, miki and batchoy,  add liberally chopped fresh kutchay leaves. You'll know why a home garden or a kitchen is not complete without this humble aromatic herb. ~

*NOTE: I transplanted the tillers to compare with the conventional means of propagation - by bulb and by seed. The result of the experiment will be known in due time.    

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