Herb of the month for June: Garlic Chives

Garlic chives are a mild example of garlic’s superb powers, offering the strong garlicky flavour without the lingering after-effect on the breath. Although they are not as powerful as garlic medicinally, garlic chives  are high in vitamin C and carotene, and help in preventing respiratory infections as well as acting as a tonic and blood cleanser. The leaves are snipped and used as garnish or to add flavour to food. 

They grow easily from seed in sun to partial shade. Plant in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Like spring onions, they form clumps but only the leaves are harvested, by snipping them off at the base. New shoots emerge quickly. Unlike ordinary chives, garlic chives have flat leaves and star-shaped white flowers in summer. The flowers are edible and should be removed to retain the strong flavour of the leaves. 

Feed with liquid fertiliser at half strength once a month and they will last well for two to three years. When they lose their vigour sow new seed. Garlic chives can also be grown in a  window box on a sunny windowsill or in troughs and pots. 

Did you know? Other names for garlic chives are Asian chives, Oriental garlic, and Chinese leek. That’s because these chives are indigenous to the Chinese province of Shanxi and have naturalised elsewhere in Asia as well as spreading across the world as a culinary herb. 

Companion planting: the aromatic garlic foliage keeps pests away, making it an effective border  around veggie beds or in-between veggies like tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers. Garlic chives attract black aphids and can be used as a trap crop. Cut down the aphid infected leaves and throw them away and within days the plant will send up new shoots. Garlic chives can also be added to natural insect repelling plant sprays. 

Culinary tips: Use the leaves to flavour herbal vinegars, salads, soups, soft cheeses and dips , egg dishes, vegetables, pasta  and grilled meat. It can be used as a substitute for garlic to make garlic flavoured butters. When used in cooking, add at the last minute as long cooking destroys their flavour. For chopping stems a pair of scissors is the best tool.

Kirchhoffs supplies seed of garlic chives as well as ordinary chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Article published in the Gardener.