Garlic chives are an herb-like perennial that is indigenous to Eurasia and North America (1). Garlic chives grow up to 2' tall and spread 1' wide when fully mature. Garlic chives are slightly less hardy than their common chive counterparts, reaching as far north as zone 4 without preparing for winter. They like full sun and are most compatible with damp soil. Garlic Chives do well in many soil types, but prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6-7 and high organic content (achievable from composting). They have long, narrow hollowed leaves similar to the appearance of short grasses. Chinese chives produce showy white flowers (2).
Chives are related to onions and share many of the same companion plants as its relative. They grow well with beets, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, rhubarb, kohlrabi, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, mustard and peppers, and are thought to enhance their flavors and growth intensity. Garlic chives discourage the spread of Japanese beetles, slugs, aphids and cabbage worms, so place them where plants in full sun have a problem with these insect infestations. Garlic chives also repel aphids which are known to be a problem for grapes, so planting these two in the same area is a good idea. Avoid putting garlic chives near asparagus, peas, spinach and beans, as they will compete for similar soil nutrients (3).
Regular harvesting (by clipping the leaves of the plant) will promote more vigorous growth and spreading behavior. Leaving the white pommed flowers may create dormancy in the plant during hot summer temperatures. Rotate the plant every 3 to 5 years to ensure the soil is not void of nitrogen and other proper soil nutrients (2).
Culinary or Medicinal Uses
It takes 50 days to harvest chives for best flavor. It is common to use primarily the garlic chive's leaves for cooking because the flower stalks are more fibrous and tougher, however, flower stalks and even the flowers themselves are edible. Chives are best used fresh and lose flavor and attractive color after being dried (2). Traditional medicinal uses of these chives include treating intestinal parasites, boosting immune systems, promote good digestion and even cure anemia. Ancient Chinese herbal medicine used garlic chives for a multitude of additional purposes including increasing energy, regulating hemorrhages, helping with ailments of the liver, kidneys and digestive track, and even as the antidote for some poisons. Used externally, garlic chives' small bulbs can be rubbed on bug bites and minor cuts. Garlic chives have the nutritous benefits of being high in vitamins A and C, fiber, carotene, riboflavin, thiamine, iron, calcium and potassium. For culinary use, garlic chives have been employed in flavoring butters, creams (including sour cream and cottage cheese), soups, eggs, seafood, oils and vinegar. They are typically used as a garnish or eaten raw because they will begin to lose their flavor if they are cooked for longer than 5 minutes. Garlic chives are a staple in many asian cuisines and are lightly fried with meats and vegetables. In Japan, garlic chive segments are added to miso soup (1).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Chives have been gathered since ancient times and cultivation began in the Middle Ages (1). Van Gogh created "Flowerpot with Chives" in 1887 - an oil on canvas painting that is now displayed in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Registered evidence in text shows garlic chives to be used as medicine as early as the Liang Dynasty (502 - 557). It is believed to promote Yang energy (4).
(1) “Garlic Chives-Allium tuberosum.” herbs2000.com. January, 2013. http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_chives_garlic.htm
(2) “How to Grow Garlic Chives: Guide to Growing Garlic Chives.” Heirloom Organics. http://www.heirloom-organics.com/guide/va/guidetogrowinggarlicchives.html
(3) “How to Use Chives as a Companion Plant.” ehow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2214425_use-chives-as-companion-plant.html
(4) “What is Chinese Leek-Chinese Chives and Its Quotes, Modern Research.” MDidea. November 26, 2012. http://mdidea.com/products/proper/proper03007.html