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Saravan locals raising the bar on the humble spring onion

While eating organic vegetables that are free of chemicals is becoming increasingly popular around the world, it’s nothing new to many rural people in Laos who have been traditionally gardening this way for eons.

Local people grow spring onions in old bomb casings and split hollow logs raised over a metre above the ground.

Local people, especially those in remote areas, mostly plant their vegetables in plots while others carry on the tradition of planting them in baskets and other containers on raised platforms that connect to their kitchen, especially phakbualuey (spring onions).
When travelling along a rugged road from Thapangthong district in Savannakhet province to Toumlan district in Saravan province recently, I was fascinated to see that many people were growing spring onions on raised platforms that connected to their kitchens.
I soaked in the natural atmosphere and the simple rural lifestyle of Toumlan district, where people were also keeping poultry and cattle under their stilted wooden houses, which were over two metres above ground.
Meanwhile, their spring onions were thriving in the raised containers fertilised by poultry and cattle dung.
Moreover, the plant boxes were very conveniently located next to the kitchen.
It was interesting to see that some people were also growing spring onions along with other vegetable in the ground around their houses and not just in the raised planters.
I talked to Mr Sipha Nonglath who had retired after working as the Director of Lao National Radio and was an experienced spring onion grower. He was born into a poor family and lived in a remote district of Savannakhet province before moving to Vientiane for work.
“People eat them all year round, which is different to other vegetables because some can only be grown from November to February in the cooler months,” Mr Sipha said.
He said many people like to plant phakbualuey on raised platforms because water stays in the containers for longer and the roots grow stronger. Spring onions planted in the ground don’t survive as long.
“Spring onions are a part of our daily diet, and have been for centuries. We add them to soups, cooking sauces, poorn (pieces of fish or pork mixed with eggplant, garlic and chillies before adding spring onions) and some other dishes,” he noted.
Head of the Information, Culture and Tourism Department in Saravan province, Mr Somchai Ounchit, said “Phakbualuey are different from other onions because the bulb is smaller and there’s a flower at the top of the stem.”
The stem is also longer than those of ordinary onions, and the growing season is longer.
“People like adding spring onions to fish and chicken soups as well as to sauces. It is part of the local cooking style and also our culture,” he said.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update May 9, 2017)


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