Garlic Chives

Spice up your garden or windowsill as well as your cuisine with garlic chives, a delicious oriental herb that's easy to grow.

| January/February 1983

  • garlic chives growth
    A stand of garlic chives resembles nothing so much as a luxuriantly thick clump of grass.
    Photo by Marlin and Eva Huffman
  • garlic chives - three meals and a cutting board
    You can use the distinctive flavor of garlic chives to improve sandwiches, salads, and soups.
    Marlin and Eva Huffman

  • garlic chives growth
  • garlic chives - three meals and a cutting board

Growing herbs is a downright satisfying experience. After all, the little food enhancers not only add a variety of attractive foliage to the garden, but are also indispensable in the kitchen.

And if you're looking for a touch of the exotic to add to your culinary creations, you might like to try garlic chives, an herb that's long been used in Chinese cooking to intensify the flavor of stir-fried vegetables and meat dishes. (In fact, many Oriental homes maintain a large patch of the flavoring right outside the door.)

A cousin of the onions — they all belong to the genus Allium — this hardy plant is easy to grow (either outdoors in your garden or indoors in a pot), requires only minimal care, and yields thick clusters of grassy leaves. What's more, the herb's mild flavor provides a delightful alternative to the stronger taste of regular garlic.

Planting and Cultivation

You can grow your own supply of the savory vegetation from seeds or starter plants. In either case, give them a sunny spot and water them well. Within a few months the shoots will develop into grassy clumps approximately 8 to 10 inches across and 12 to 16 inches high — both broader and taller than domestic chives.

The herb is a hardy cultivar that can survive prolonged periods of drought. However, under dry conditions the plants won't produce much of their flavorsome foliage, so you may want to mulch the bed with moisture-retaining straw. And to protect the stand from encroaching weeds, it's a good idea to encircle the area with stones, discarded chunks of cement block, or old boards.

Although garlic chives are resistant to subzero temperatures, you might like to transplant some to a pot during the colder months, to brighten your kitchen windowsill. In order to move the Oriental herbage indoors, just cut out a six-inch circle from an existing clump — making sure that you don't slice off the bulbous roots — and press the mass into a medium-sized planter. Trim the leaves down to their thick stems, add more soil to the pot, and watch new growth appear within 24 hours!

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