I don’t mean to brag but I thought I was familiar with most culinary herbs until I found these little bunches of onion-like plants in a neighbor’s garden. Without knowing what they were, I dug up as many as I could and moved them to my garden, planting them along flower borders so I could watch them during the growing season.
So many weeds we have growing in our ditches are herbs that are no longer loved and appreciated. It is a shame since many of them have as much, if not more, health benefits as plants we buy in grocery stores.
Turns out the plants I dug up are garlic chives, a very common herb used in Asian cuisine and quickly developing fans around the rest of the world.
Garlic chives belong to the chive family of onions. The family has two branches, onions and chives. The chive-like leaves add a garlic flavor to any dish, a nice option when one doesn’t have real garlic.
The plants grow about 12-inches high. They prefer a rich moist soil with sun and, once established, easily spread through self-sowing.
It is interesting to see how herbs were used for medicine. In the case of garlic chives, they allegedly reduce stress and fatigue. Paste of the herb supposedly heals wounds faster and stops bleeding. It was also used in the treatment of liver, kidney and digestion problems.
More to the point, garlic chives can be used in soups, sauces, salads, egg dishes – wherever you like to use garlic but don’t have any available. If for some reason you can’t eat garlic, garlic chives are a good way to add the garlic flavor without any related issues.
Garlic chives are rich in vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, iron, vitamin A, thiamin and betacarotene. These elements help maintain blood pressure and increase a body’s immunity.
Garlic chives are also low in fat and have a high content of dietary fiber and protein. According to Frank Tozer, who wrote the Uses of Wild Plants, it helps to maintain a balanced metabolism.
If you look at the white garlic chive flowers closely, they look very similar to wild onion flowers, which bloom in late spring. When trying to tell the difference between the two, wild onion leaves are tubular while garlic chives are flat.
I have used both garlic chive flower stems and cut up leaves in salads and can’t tell a difference between the two, they both add a nice garlic flavor.
Wild onions and garlic were a Native American food staple. Bulbs were gathered in large quantities for winter use. Whole bulbs were roasted in fire pits, something we can duplicate by wrapping bulbs in aluminum foil and baking in a 350-F oven, or the ashes of a fire, for 45 minutes.
Native Americans used wild onions and garlic as insect repellants, simply smearing them on their skin. I have heard alleged garlic cloves repel vampires but I am sure smearing garlic all over will repel people.
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener, beekeeper and sometimes cook. Copyright 2016 used with permission, all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRETTY AND EASY – Garlic chive flowers produce seeds in the green center to self-sow, making these perennial herbs very easy to grow. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins).
PRETIER THAN THEY SMELL – Garlic chives make a lovely border plant and are a favorite source of pollen for my bees.