Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Plants on Trial - garlic chives

All the plants in my yard are on trial in order to decide who is worthy of occupying the precious little space on my urban plot. The questions:

(+1 for the following questions)
1. Are they beneficial to me or my wild friends?
2. Are they edible?
3. Is it perennial or self sustaining?
4. Suitable to the climate / easy to care for?
5. Are they native?
6. Are they gorgeous?

(-1 for the following questions)
7. Are they invasive?
8. Are they just pathetic.

Depending on how these questions are answered - they will be voted 'in' or 'out.'

First defendent on the stand: Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)

Thanks to DelosJ for this creative commons photo. I looked but could find no pictures of my own anywhere!

Let me tell you about this plant. I can't remember where I got it. Perhaps it was at a plantcycle event, perhaps I purchased or maybe I even bought seeds eons ago when I was a gardening novice and didn't understand things like 'some plants all your neighbours have too many of.' It greens up early in the spring and produces attractive white flowers in the summer. If you don't remove those flowerheads, it then makes about a million babies. These babies must be removed young because this is one herb that performs well as cut and come again so there is no careless yank. It will grow back if you don't dig up its rhizomous root structure.

Initially, I thought the taste unexceptional until a plantcycle lady of chinese background got really excited about it. I looked up some recipes and found out that its flowerheads are considered a delicacy. Good because despite the fact that they are pretty, they can also produce the aforementioned million babies. The leaves can also be blanched and the golden growth used as a potherb. Since leek moth descended on my garden, they have also become the only allium more or less unaffected by this scurge, bumping up their usefulness a couple notches.

There is an attractive pink flowered cultivar if you are feeling brave enough to let it flower or don't have a taste for its flower buds.

Rating: 4
Keep it in the garden: yes (but I don't consider it entirely innocent)


Vital Stats:

life cycle: Hardy perennial, self seeding,rhizomes and bulbs
Use: Edible leaves, bulbs, flowerheads, apparently even the seeds, oil can be produced from seeds, leaves can be dried. The flowerheads and seedheads are used in flower arranging. I can definitely see this about the seedheads as they dry into rigid straw coloured stems topped with a globe part filled with black seeds.
Design Use: 10-12 inches tall, grass like clumps, good edging plant or ground cover
Growing Preferences: full sun to light shade, normal watering. Will tolerate some drought.



Wikipedia on garlic chives
Floridata article on Garlic Chives
One of many garlic chive dumpling recipes
Cheat Eat blog talks about using blanched or yellow garlic chives


Bert said...

Being a "Herbie" the battle between garlic chives and myself has been on going for many years. I have found the best way to deal with its prolific nature is to be ruthless with it. Or confine it to its own bed but who has that much room? Love the taste of it, love the flowers (dried in crafts & fresh in salads)so garlic chives stays in the front of my herb garden where I can keep an eye on it!

Daphne said...

I had garlic chives in my garden years ago, then I just couldn't take digging all the babies out. If it was just pulling them out it would be fine, but I needed to dig them out to get rid of them. This year it is back in the garden. I'm hoping I don't regret my decision. If I'm good, I'll just deadhead the flowers so I get no seed. Otherwise it is me out with the trowel again on my knees.