Sand Leek, Spanish Garlic
FR: Echalote d’Espagne, Rocambole
GER: Rockenbolle, Schlangenknoblauch
IT: Aglio d’lndia, Aglio di Spagna, Aglio romano, Rocambola
BOT: Allium scorodoprasum
FAM: Liliaceae (Amaryllidaceae, Alliaceae)
Rocambole is one of the onions, native to Europe and east to the Caucasus and Syria. It is found growing wild in dry places (a relative term here) on the coast of the north of England and parts of Scotland. Rocambole comes from the Danish rocken bolle meaning rock onion. Sand leek is another name that gives a clue to its habitat.
The flavour of rocambole is rather like mild garlic and is cultivated to some extent, though it is not as popular today as in the last century. In appearance the plant is very like the purple-skinned varieties of garlic but is easily distinguished because the flowers of rocambole are light purple, not white as are the flowers of garlic: also rocambole forms purple bulbils, that is, small aerial bulbs, which garlic does not. These bulbils may, of course, also be used for flavouring.
The rocambole is easy to grow in light soil either from the bulbils or by separating the root cloves. Good seed is rare. Bulbs can be lifted, dried, and stored in the same way as garlic. (See Onions, Garlic.)