Saturday, July 23, 2011

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)

Before I retired and really got into building up a herb garden I only grew one herb.  Garlic chives.  This was because they were so easy that I could not kill them and because they were so useful to have near the kitchen door.  Some people call them Chinese chives.

Garlic chives are wonderful chopped up in tuna or egg salad sandwiches. (For non-Americans, this means canned tuna fish or mashed boiled eggs mixed with mayonnaise and seasonings,)  The chives give the sandwiches some extra color and taste.....although the little kids will sometimes turn their noses up at the green stuff in the sandwich filling.  My favorite way to use the chives is to chop up a big bunch and add it to scrambled eggs.  You first saute the garlic chives in a little hot oil and then when the smell of garlic hits your nose you add the eggs and mix it all together.  The chives can also be used as a stir fry vegetable.

I have had the garlic chives for so long that I forget where I got the starter from but you can buy a small pot of them at Hawaii garden stores.  The most important thing to remember about them is that this plant can be an aggressive spreader so it is best to grow them in a container.   I have mine in an old galvanized tub of half soil and half potting mix. Garlic chives will also self seed so you need to pick the flowers before they seed or you will baby chives popping up all around your container.  The white flowers are pretty and sturdy so that they can make a lovely posy in a vase on your kitchen bench.  I love mixing them with Thai basil flowers.  Of course if you want to grow garlic chives starters for your friends it is easy to collect the seed heads and grow  babies in pots.

Garlic chives like sunshine and to be kept well watered.  Lack of water makes them go all floppy but they will perk up again when they get a drink.  A hand full of balanced slow release fertilizer every three months or so should keep them happy.  I have no problems with bugs on them except  to keep a watch out for mini-snails hiding among them or bag worms, looking like little clusters of sawdust, attaching under the leaves.  Hand collection and a squeeze between your fingers will deal with them both.   If the garlic chives get all long and messy looking you can cut the whole lot down to about an inch from the soil and let new growth to give them a perky fresh look.  I usually do this about once a year.  They quickly grow back so that you will have them to use again within the week.


PS,  October 2019
Just wanted to add a photo of Garlic Chives that I took recently in Thailand

Garlic Chives on the left being served with other extras to put on noodle soup.