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Scallions Nutrition facts

Scallions, also known as spring onions, belong to the leafy herbs of the allium (lily) family, which includes tunicate bulb vegetables such as onions, shallots, and others. Specifically, "spring onion" refers to the bulb and its top greens of the Allium fistulosum (Welsh onion) plant, a sub-species within the broader onion (allium) family, particularly recognized in the western regions like Europe. Another common name for spring onions is green bunching onions.

Typically, spring onions are harvested as young, immature plants, well before they reach full maturity and develop larger bulbs. To achieve this, they are planted closely together in the fields, which helps in inhibiting the growth of their bulbs.

spring onions
Tender scallions! Courtesy: jorge-11

Unlike its counterparts like Allium cepa (onion) and Allium cepa aggregatum (shallots), which develop sizable underground bulbs, Allium fistulosum (Welsh onion) lacks bulb formation and is exclusively cultivated for its crisp green tops.

Allium fistulosum (Welsh onion) is a perennial plant indigenous to Central Asia and now extensively cultivated across Europe, the Americas, and Asia. In comparison to other allium species, its leaves exhibit a circular cross-section, whereas others typically display semi-circular tubes.

Scallions are characterized by their lengthy, slender, upright stalks emerging from a small, elongated root (bulb), from which numerous straight, hollow, tubular leaves sprout.

Health Benefits of Scallions

  1. Scallions are extremely low in calories, with just 31 calories in 100 grams of fresh leaves. Despite this, they are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, plant fiber, minerals, and vitamins that offer significant health benefits.

  2. As leafy greens, scallions naturally contain higher levels of plant-derived antioxidants and dietary fiber compared to other bulbous members of the Allium family, such as onions and shallots. 100 grams of fresh spring onions provide 2.6 grams or 7% of the recommended daily fiber intake.

  3. While scallions, like leeks, have proportionally fewer thiosulfonates antioxidants than garlic, they still possess compounds like diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, and allyl propyl disulfide which convert into allicin through enzymatic reactions when the leaves are crushed or cut. Laboratory studies demonstrate that allicin inhibits cholesterol production by targeting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in liver cells, and exhibits antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.

  4. Allicin promotes cardiovascular health by reducing blood vessel stiffness through the release of nitric oxide (NO), which in turn lowers overall blood pressure. It also prevents platelet clot formation and has fibrinolytic effects in blood vessels, reducing the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and stroke.

  5. Spring onions are rich in vitamin A (997 IU or 33% of RDA per 100 grams) and other flavonoid phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, zeaxanthin, and lutein, which collectively contribute to protection against lung and oral cavity cancers.

  6. They are also abundant in other essential vitamins such as vitamin C and K, with scallions being one of the best sources of vitamin K. 100 grams of fresh greens provide 207 µg or about 172% of the recommended daily intake of this vitamin. Vitamin K plays a crucial role in bone health by promoting osteoblastic activity (bone formation and strengthening) and may help limit neuronal damage in the brain, potentially aiding in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

  7. Spring onions are packed with B-complex vitamins and essential minerals like copper, iron, manganese, and calcium. These leafy greens contain significant amounts of vitamins such as pyridoxine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin. 100 grams of fresh leaves provide 64 µg of folates, essential for DNA synthesis and cell division, particularly crucial during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in newborns.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Scallions (Allium fistulosum), Nutrient value per 100 g.

(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 32 Kcal 1%
Carbohydrates 7.34 g 6%
Protein 1.83 g 3%
Total Fat 0.30 g 1%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 2.6 g 7%
Folates 64 µg 16%
Niacin 0.525 mg 3%
Pantothenic acid 0.075 mg 1.5%
Pyridoxine 0.61 mg 5%
Riboflavin 0.080 mg 6%
Thiamin 0.055 mg 5%
Vitamin A 997 IU 33%
Vitamin C 18.8 mg 31%
Vitamin E 0.55 mg 4%
Vitamin K 207 µg 172%
Sodium 16 mg 1%
Potassium 276 mg 6%
Calcium 72 mg 7 %
Copper 0.083 mg 9%
Iron 1.48 mg 18.5%
Magnesium 20 mg 5%
Manganese 0.160 mg 7%
Phosphorus 37 mg 5%
Selenium 0.6 µg 1%
Zinc 0.39 mg 3.5%
Carotene-ß 598 µg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 µg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 1137 µg --

Selection and storage

Fresh scallions are readily available year-round in vegetable markets. Typically sold in bunches alongside other leafy greens, they can also be grown in backyard gardens. When harvesting, gently pull the entire plant once the bulb diameter reaches approximately half an inch.

When selecting scallions in stores, seek for clean, uniform, firm stalks about the size of a pencil. Look for well-formed, green-colored tubules and avoid those with over-mature, yellow leaves, as they tend to be more pungent with a sharp flavor similar to onions. Additionally, avoid those with withered, yellow-discolored, or dry tops.

Once at home, rinse the scallions in cold water, gently pat them dry with a moisture-absorbent cloth, and store them in the refrigerator. Placing them in a perforated plastic bag set at high relative humidity will help maintain freshness. Properly stored scallions can last for up to a week.

Preparation and serving methods

To prepare, remove the roots and outer layers until you reach the ice-white central stalk. Rinse the entire scallion in cold water and pat dry. Then, finely chop the leaves to your preference using a paring knife—whether it be rings, sticks, diagonals, or any other desired shape.

Spring onions are commonly used into recipes when a mild onion flavor is desired, without the overpowering pungency. Additionally, they contribute a vibrant green hue to dishes.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Scallions, freshly chopped, serve as a delightful garnish in raw salads.

  • Bunches of fresh leaves are commonly incorporated into stews and stir-fries, harmonizing with ingredients such as potatoes, seafood, carrots, cabbage, and green peas.

  • Spring onions also feature in various dishes including pancakes, soufflés, pasta, fritters, noodles, and soups.

  • In South Asia, spring onions are predominantly used in vegetable stir-fries, noodles, fried rice, and rice pulao.

Safety Profile

While handling scallions may cause mild irritation to the skin, mucosa, and eyes, it is typically less severe compared to other members of the allium family, such as onions. Chopping or slicing scallions releases a gas known as allyl sulfide. When this gas combines with moisture (water) in the atmosphere, it transforms into sulfuric acid. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further reading:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database. (opens in new window)

  2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk (Link opens in new window).

  3. Green onions- PDF.

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