Very few vegetables can lay claim to having three proper uses in the kitchen but the garlic chive is one of the most versatile herbs/vegetables you can grow. Garlic chive flowers are utterly irresistible to bees and other insects and your plants will be absolutely buzzing from August to September.
Garlic chives originally from China and have been eaten there for many thousands of years. They are related to what we would normally called chives in the UK, however the leaves are flattened rather than hollow and the stems are long and strong and held well above the foliage. The are clump forming so once you have a plant it will gradually increase in numbers through small bulbs.
Garlic chives have a flavour half way between chive and garlic but are not too strongly garlic for those who do not like the flavour.
In the Kitchen
Leaves: Use as you would chives but you could also wrap them around chicken breasts or fish. Try chopping and mixing with butter for an unusual take on garlic bread.
Immature flower buds and stems: Can be stir fried, griddled or steamed with butter. In Korea they may stir fry and then cover in a thin later of beaten egg or a pancake batter to make a lovely pancake called Buchimgae or Pajeon.
Flowers: Crack out your tempura batter and make garlic chive tempure.
Bulbs: The jury is out on this one, some say you can eat the bulbs like spring onions/scallions, others say they are not good to eat. They are similar to the base of a spring onion and quite fibrous on the outside so probably not worth the bother.
Yield and plant health
Garlic chives will gradually spread in to small clumps. 16 plants will give a few servings of stir fry stems and as much chopped leaves as you like for a family of 6. Plants can spread by seed and bulb so worth while keeping an eye on to make sure they do not become invasive. You can remove all flowers before the seeds set to prevent them popping up where you don’t want them. Plants are easily uprooted.
Having grown them for a few years I have not noticed any disease or pest and flowers seem to encourage beneficial insects in to the garden.
How to grow
Garlic chives like a sunny spot but are not fussy about soil conditions. Sow thinly in march in a greenhouse for planting out in June or sow directly outside in June, thinning to 10cm apart. Keep watered during their first season but after that they should be self sustaining in all but the driest of weather. Do not cut the leaves during their first season but you can remove the flowers. After that then you can cut leaves as required. The chives will flower through August and September and possibly in spring as well.