Garlic chives are known by the scientific name Allium tuberosum and are also referred to as Asian chives, Chinese chives, Chinese leek or Oriental garlic. The origins of garlic chives date back 5,000 years ago to China, where they are native to the province of Shanxi. They have also been grown in Japan for centuries and are naturalised across Asia and many other parts of the world.
They are a clump-forming perennial plant that grows from a tough, fibrous, inedible bulb. The leaves are the most-used part of the plant alongside the flowers. Garlic chives grow wild and are considered invasive in some countries.
Garlic chives can be grown from seed and can be sown any time of the year in subtropical areas. Seeds should be planted approximately 1cm deep and 15cm apart from the next to ensure clumps can form.
Plants require rich, well-drained soil and full sun with low levels of shade. They are considered drought tolerant, but should be given fertiliser for maximum yield. Germination can take up to 20 days, with plants producing a decent number of leaves in 14 weeks
Flower heads should be removed before they are completely formed to ensure plant longevity.
To harvest, cut with scissors a few centimetres from the soil level to ensure plants have the best chance of reshooting. In cooler climes, the stalks will die down before re-sprouting from roots in spring.
Garlic chives have flat, grass-like leaves with triangular bases that can grow up to 45cm in height. The leaves are not hollow, as they are for onion chives. The plant’s compact florets are white and star-shaped and grow at the top of the leaves in loose bunches. The green leaves can grow up to 45cm in height.
The flavour profile of garlic chives is considerably milder than onion and is more akin to garlic without the harshness. The chives can evoke a tingly sensation on the palate.
Most parts of the plant can be eaten except for the bulb. Unopened flower buds can be picked off and added to dishes and the leaves are widely used across Asian cookery.
Popular applications include jiaozi, chive and kimchi pancakes, stir fries, gyoza and miso soup. They’re also served with gukbap; a Korean hot soup with rice. In north-eastern India, garlic chives are often substituted for garlic or onion. The chives can be consumed fresh, cooked or pickled.
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