The Many Types of Negi
“Negi” can be a confusing term as it is used to describe a few different types of Allium fistulosum. This is one species of Allium that is related to but very different from onions, garlic, and leeks. When translated, Negi becomes “green onion”, but this doesn’t work too well when you start to describe the different types.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Negi can be divided into three categories:
千住ネギ / Senju Negi
加賀ネギ / Kaga Negi
九条ネギ / Kujo Negi
Both Senju and Kaga Negi are considered 長ネギ (Naganegi) or “Long Negi”, and are characterized by the elongated white stalk and deep roots. Long Negi is synonymous with 白ネギ (Shironegi) or “White Negi”, and 根深ネギ (Nebukanegi) or “Deep Rooted Negi”.
When sold, the tops are trimmed so the white portion is the majority, hence “White Negi”. These become sweeter when cooked so they are often used for grilling or hot pots.
Kujo Negi is also known as 葉ネギ (Hanegi) or “Leaf Negi”, which is sometimes called:
- 青ネギ (Aonegi) or “Blue/Green Negi”
- 小ネギ（KonegI) or “Small Negi”
This category is what Americans might call scallions. These are often used as a garnish or topping and add aroma to soups, noodles, and many other dishes. They have soft leaves and a less strong flavor, suitable as garnish.
Confusingly, some of the scallions you find in an American grocery store might actually be very young Allium cepa (same as bulb onions), depending on the production area and time of year.
The difference between the two species is that A. fistulosum will never bulb – these can grow into long, thick stalks, whereas A. cepa is characterized by its bulbing genetics.
Each of the three categories – Senju, Kaga and Kujo – can be further divided into specific varieties you might see available in Japan or elsewhere.
TYPES OF KUJO NEGI
九条ねぎ・Kujo Negi are part of the “Kyo-yasai”, or heirloom varieties from Kyoto, and date back to the 8th century.
Kujo Negi is divided into two more categories:
- 浅黄種・Asagidane (light yellow) is a light green, very thin type harvested in the summer and early fall, and
- 黒種・Kurodane (black) is dark green with thicker leaves. Kurodane is more famous as it is particularly delicious when grown in the winter.
You might also see 万能ネギ・Ban’no Negi, or “all-purpose negi” used in place of Kujo or Leaf Negi in Japan, which is actually a regionally registered product name in Fukuoka. The name “Ban’no Negi” cannot be used unless it is approved by the residing Japanese Agricultural Association. These are actually young Kujo Negi.
Sometimes Ban’no Negi are confused with Wakegi and Asatsuki, which are actually not negi at all. (See section on NOT NEGI below.)
越津・Koshizu Negi are from Aichi prefecture. They are planted in the early spring (March - April), dug down and replanted in the summer, and then harvested after October. The replanting gives them a longer white portion than other types of Leaf Negi, so they are an intermediate category between Leaf and Long Negi.
TYPES OF KAGA NEGI
Kaga Negi are overwintered Negi varieties, which are often grown in cooler climates, as they are meant to go dormant in the winter. Often sown in the fall to overwinter, they are sometimes sown in late winter to grow through the year for fall harvest. Kaga varieties can be identified by their thicker stalks. Included in this category are:
- 下仁田ネギ・Shimonita Negi, a very short and thick heirloom from Gunma prefecture. Find Tokita's Shimonita Negi from Kitazawa here.
- 岩槻ネギ・Iwatsuki Negi, an heirloom from southern Saitama prefecture which is characterized by its high number of divisions. It creates 7 or 8 pieces from one plant. It has thick leaf sheaths and wide and short leaf blades.
TYPES OF SENJU NEGI
There are many different varieties of “Senju Negi” in Japan, and they are mostly classified into three categories:
黒柄・Kurogara, meaning black handle
赤柄・Akagara, meaning red handle
合柄・Aigara, meaning in-between
The black is the darkest green, red is lighter green, and Aigara is of course in between the two. There’s also sometimes a category between Kurogara and Aigara, which is Aigurogara (合黒柄).
The varieties of Senju Negi are often quite local, and sometimes maintained or promoted by the local government or a club. Here are a couple of examples of Senju Negi:
- 金長ネギ・Kincho Negi: A famous variety from Kanamachi (Tokyo) developed after the war, which was the first to receive a registered name. This is actually a cross between an Aigurogara and Kurogara.
- 深谷ネギ・Fukaya Negi: This is actually not one variety but a group of varieties produced in Fukaya City, Saitama Prefecture. In an effort to differentiate and brand the local high quality Negi, they have started using the brand 少し贅沢深谷ねぎ, or “Slightly Luxurious Fukaya Negi”.
Tokita has worked on Negi since it first began in Saitama, especially being based in a strong negi-producing area. It was the first company to offer hybrid Negi in 1977, and has maintained and developed many varieties since.
You might recognize Nabechan from Johnny’s, which is a Tokita-bred variety combining the traits of Shimonita with a Fukaya-type line for upright plants with elongated and thick stalks.
Red Beard (offered by Kitazawa) is a Senju-type heirloom that Tokita has maintained which turns red in cool temperatures.
The Negi variety S5 which we currently offer through the Oishii Nippon Project is called 森の奏で (Mori no Kanade) in Japan, meaning “Forest Music”. It is extremely adaptable and will develop the characteristic long white shank that can reach over 36” if hilled with soil properly.
These varieties have been maintained for decades with careful selection in Japan.
There are a few Negi lookalikes that have different characteristics:
わけぎ種 Wakegi - Walking Onions or Tree Onions
Wakegi onions have similarly long green leaves, but they are darker and more stiff. These are actually a hybrid between shallots and Negi (species: Allium x proliferum) and are grown from bulbs, so they have a slightly swollen bulb at the bottom.
They are sometimes called “walking onions” because they can re-grow from the bulbs that develop at the top of the plant, which fall and plant themselves.
You can find Wakegi from Suzuki Farm here.
あさつき Asatsuki Chives
Then you also have Asatsuki, which is one of many varieties of chives grown in Japan. The species of Asatsuki is Allium schoenoprasum var. Foliosum. It is also called “red small-bulbed Chinese onion”, or Hong cong tou in Chinese.
Above ground, Asatsuki looks very similar to chives, but underground produces small red bulbs. The leaves can be used raw but have a stronger spiciness, and a firmer texture – hence why they are often cooked or chopped finely when used as a garnish.
Spring onions are actually immature, slightly swollen bulb onions (the common brown or red ones) which are the species Allium cepa. These will have a noticeable bulb at the bottom, and are deliciously tender in the spring.
Leeks are Allium ampeloprasum, a different species from Negi which has a similar elongating stalk structure with many layers. However, Leeks have tough, flat leaves (though can still be used in soup) whereas Negi has soft, succulent leaves.
Here’s a tidy list of some Allium species and common names:
- Allium ampeloprasum: Leeks
- Allium cepa: Onions, Shallots (also Spring Onions, and sometimes Green Onions/Scallions)
- Shallots were their own species Allium ascalonicum until 2010
- Allium fistulosum: Negi (Welsh onions, sometimes Green Onions/Scallions)
- Allium × proliferum: Wakegi (Tree Onions, Walking Onions, Egyptian Onions)
- This is a hybrid between shallot and Negi
- Allium sativum: Garlic
- Allium schoenoprasum: Chives
- Allium schoenoprasum var. Foliosum: Asatsuki
- Allium tuberosum: Nira (Chinese Chives)
We’re glad to offer Negi seeds and information – do you have questions? Please feel free to comment or reach out to us for more details.
For more information:
- Home Center Valor Blog
- Just One Cookbook
- Cooks Info
- Eat Japan: Asatsuki
- Delish Kitchen: Kujo Negi
- CamCam Interview with Vegetable Sommelier
- Food Safety & Security Foundation Map of Japanese Vegetables
- Bon Appetit: Are Scallions and Green Onions the Same Thing?
- Saitama Prefecture: Fukaya Negi
- Numasu Negi from the Numata Brand
- Types of Negi from Kyoto U
- Tabechoku blog