Perennial – How To Grow Garlic (Chinese) Chives

Garlic (Chinese) Chive flowers
Garlic (Chinese) Chive flowers

Garlic Chives or Chinese Chives (Allium tuberosum) are a quick growing, hardy, plant which needs very little maintenance or care. They are a prolific grower, and 1-2 plants are generally enough for a home garden. They are a good choice for a beginner garden and, also, add value to established gardens. They look especially beautiful as a border around a garden with their bountiful blooms. The garlic chive is similar to regular chives, yet, is distinctive for its garlic flavor as opposed to regular chives, which taste like onions. They are also called Chinese chives, Chinese leeks, or allium chives.

Garlic Chives Description

  • Chive plants grow 10-20″ tall. The plant sports tall grass-like foliage that is flat and narrow. As it grows, the leaves curve downward with their tips pointing to the ground. This creates a fountain of green foliage that remains orderly and pretty all through the growing season. At the base of each leaf, the stem is a small white bulb which is edible, as are all parts of the plant.
  • In the fall or late summer, they produce beautiful white flowers that bees and insects adore. The flower stalks emerge from the base of the plant and stand tall above the green leaves. A round bulb-like ball forms with dozens of tiny star-shaped flowers. Flower heads should be removed before going to seed since they self-seed easily and can quickly spread and become an invasive if not monitored.

Are Chives Perennial?

  • Yes! Garlic chives grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. They have a long growing season and will grow all year-round in climates where the ground doesn’t freeze. In climates where the ground freezes, they will die back during cold weather and reemerge in the spring.

Growing Chives

Location

  • To begin, choose a space in your garden which will be a good permanent place for them. Since they are perennial, they will need a designated spot. They need between 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. They like rich, well-drained, soil yet are adaptable to growing in a variety of soil types.

Planting

  • Garlic chives can be grown from seed or started from divisions. To start them from seed, plant them 1/4″ deep and 6-8″ apart. Garlic chives grow slowly, just a few inches a year until they reach their mature height of 10-20″.
  • To start growing chives from a division, carefully dig out a mature plant. Divide the plant into sections and plant each section in its own location with plenty of space. When you plant from divisions, hold off harvesting any leaves for the first year as they establish themselves.

Maintenance

  • Once they are established, garlic chives need little care. They are very hardy and tolerant of heat, cold, and drought. Sometimes the center of the plant will die when it gets too large. If this happens, pull up the plant and remove the parts that are still good. These can be replanted as divisions.

Harvesting

  • The leaves can be cut and used as soon as they are 3” tall. Cut down the leaves to the base, leaving just a bit of green showing. Like most greens, the leaves should be cut back on a regular basis to encourage new growth. The flower heads of Garlic chives can be cut off and used in salads. The small bulb roots can be pulled up for use in cooking. They have a strong garlic/onion flavor that can be used for a variety of culinary purposes.

Related References

How to freeze chives

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

How to harvest chives

  • Harvest chives by cutting them just above the ground.
  • For fresh chive tender chives, if the chives have been growing a long time, you might want to make crop first cutting and give them two weeks or so to allow the chives to grow back again fresh.

Clean the Chives

  • Clean out the brown and dried pieces
  • Wash thoroughly, but gently, and pat dry

Prep the Chives

  • Even the up on a cutting board With your sharpest knife
  • Mince them into 1/16″ to 1/8″ pieces

Freeze the Chives

  • Put them loosely in a pint jar with a secure lid. Use of a wide mouth canning/freezing jar is recommended.
  • Store them in the freezer.

Use the Chives

  • When you are ready to use them, spoon out the desired amount without thawing them.
  • Frozen chives are best used in cooking.

Related References

Perennial – Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) flower With bumblebee
Elephant garlic flower With bumblebee

Elephant Garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) is a perennial plant belonging to the onion genus. It is not a true garlic, but are a variant of the garden leek. It has a tall, solid, flowering stalk and broad, flat leaves much like those of the leek, but forms a bulb consisting of very large, garlic-like cloves. The flavor of these, while not exactly like garlic, is much more similar to garlic than to leeks. The flavor is milder than garlic, and much more palatable to some people than garlic when used raw as in salads. It is sometimes confused with solo garlic.

The mature bulb is broken up into cloves which are quite large and with papery skins and these are used for both culinary purposes and propagation. Also, much smaller cloves with a hard shell grow on the outside of the bulb. Many gardeners often ignore these, but if they are planted, they produce a nonflowering plant in their first year, which has a solid bulb, essentially a single large clove. In their second year, this single clove then, like a normal bulb, divides into many separate cloves. While it may take an extra year, it is desirable to plant these small bulbils (several can be produced by each bulb) and the harvest increased, though delayed a year.

Elephant garlic or Giant garlic as it was originally called was first introduced to the commercial and gardening market in 1941 by Nicholas Garden nursery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in the United States. The nursery noticed the enormous garlic was being grown by local immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Northern Yugoslavia who had brought it with them from their homeland. Seeing the market potential for such a unique shaped and flavored allium they purchased twelve pounds to cultivate for commercial distribution. After 10 years of growing, it was given the name Elephant garlic and Nicholas Garden placed newspaper ads to promote it and began selling it throughout the United States and Canada. Since that time it has grown in popularity and seeds have been sold around the world in Europe, South America, South Africa, Australia, and Russia.

Unlike many kinds of garlic, elephant garlic does not have to be harvested or divided each year but can be ignored and left in the ground without much risk of rotting. The plant, if left alone, will spread into a clump with many flowering heads (one stalk and flower from each clove, once the bulb divides). These are often left in flower gardens as an ornamental and to discourage pests. Of course, once they get overcrowded, the plant may not do as well, and growth is stunted, with some rotting.

Elephant garlic is not generally propagated by seeds.

The immature plant tops can be topped off (cut) when the plant is young and they are still tender, as can be done with onions, and chives, along with the very immature flower bud, and are called scapes. They can be pickled, Lacto-fermented, stir-fried, added to soups, etc. The scapes (whether elephant garlic, garlic, onion, chive, or garlic chive) can also be frozen without any cooking, and generally, remain fresh for a year or so without freezer burn, to be added to any soup, stew, stir-fry, etc. Topping the plants off also helps more of the plant’s energy to be directed toward the bulb. Since the seed is not generally gathered from elephant garlic, this is the best use of resources and helps the bulb, though it does detract from the aesthetic value. A few scapes can be left to mature to into stalks to flower.

Like regular garlic, elephant garlic can be roasted whole on the grill or baked in the oven and then used as a spread with butter on toast. Fresh elephant garlic contains mostly moisture and foams up like boiling potatoes, whether on the stove or in a glass dish in the oven. Drying in the basement for a few months reduces the moisture content, and bring out a fuller flavor.

How To Plant Elephant Garlic

With elephant garlic planting, most any soil will do, but for the largest bulbs begin with a well-draining soil medium. Dig down a foot into the soil and amend with a 1.5-gallon bucket of sand, granite dust, humus/peat moss mix per 2’x 2’to 3’x 3′ section and mix in well. Top dress with some well-aged manure and mulch around the plants with chopped leaves and/or sawdust to keep weeds at bay and also to nourish as the amendments decompose or break down.

Hardiness

  • Zone 3-9

Location

  •  Elephant Garlic prefers full sun and can be grown in temperate regions all the way into tropical zones.

Size

  • Height 18 inches,

Days to Maturity

  • 120 day to mature.

When to Plant

  • Can be planted fall, summer or early spring.  In cooler climates, plant in the fall or spring while in warmer regions the herb can be planted in spring, fall, or winter. Break up the bulb into cloves for propagation. Some cloves are much smaller and are called corms, which grow on the outside of the bulb. If you plant these corms, they will produce a non-blooming plant in the first year with a solid bulb or single large clove. In the second year, the clove will begin to separate into multiple cloves, so don’t ignore the corms. It may take two years, but eventually, you will get a good head of elephant garlic.

Attracts

In my experience, elephant garlic attracts:

  • Bumblebees
  • Honeybees
  • ladybugs
  • Butterflies

How To Use Elephant Garlic

When cooking with elephant garlic, remember that it is not a substitute for the ordinary form. Instead, it should use where a subtle hint of garlic is wanted without overpowering the rest of the food. Treat it as a “similar but different” ingredient when creating or experimenting with recipes.

There are many uses for elephant garlic. It’s often served raw in salads or it can be sliced and sautéed in butter (be careful when cooking, it browns very quickly and can turn bitter). It’s also frequently used to give a hint of flavor to soups and stews.

Roasted Garlic Recipe

Arguably the best and simplest way to enjoy Elephant Garlic. Is just by roasting it whole!

Ingredients

  • 1 bulb elephant garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200C).
  • Chop your elephant garlic bulb in half horizontally.
  • Drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Put the bulb back together, loosely enclose in foil and place in the preheated oven. Depending on the size of the bulb it will take between 40 minutes and 1 hour to roast.
  • Turn down the oven to 355 degrees Fahrenheit (180C) and leave for an extra 30 mins to get a more caramelized flavor.
  • Once roasted it can be simply spread on bread, served as a side to barbecued or roasted meats or added to sauces and soups.

Cooking Substitution

Elephant garlic produces milder flavored garlic than its relatives. Generally, you will need to use more elephant garlic to achieve an approximation for soft neck garlic, about double.  Many people do not fin elephant garlic to be a satisfactory substitute for soft neck garlic.  I would use them according to taste rule and do some experimentation.  However, if you are looking for a general guideline are some.

Cooking Substitute For Elephant Garlic

  • Regular garlic (stronger) = about one half the volume
  • Equal amounts of chopped leek + minced garlic clove of an equivalent volume

Cooking Equivalents by Approximate Size

  • 1 clove elephant garlic = 2 medium cloves of regular garlic

Related References

Perennial – How To Grow ‘Common’ Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Common Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)  is a hardy, bulbous-rooted, perennial plant, indigenous to France and Great Britain. The leaves, which are produced in tufts, are seven or eight inches in length, erect and cylindrical, or awl-shaped. The bulbs are white, oval, and of small size; usually measuring about half an inch in diameter. The flower-stalk rises to the height of the leaves, and produces, at its extremity, a globular group of purplish, barren flowers.

Uses

  • Leaves have mild onion flavor. Chop them and add to salads egg and cheese dishes, cream cheese, mashed potatoes, hamburgers, sandwich spreads, soups, stews, and sauces.
  • Chive bloom in mid to late summer make this an attractive border and edging plant.

Companion Plant

  • Bulbs exude a substance that makes plants good companions for carrots by discouraging a harmful fungus.

Hardiness

  • Hardy perennial.

Height

  • 6-10 inches

Spread

  • 12 inches Location

Requirements

  • Chives grow best in full sun in a fairly rich, moist soil, which is high in organic matter and has a pH of 6 to 8. Chives will, however, tolerate partial shade and most soil types. Chives should be fertilized several times during the growing season with a balanced commercial fertilizer or bone meal and manure.

Planting:

  • Sow seeds in spring or fall, in. deep in rows 12 in. apart. As soon as seedlings are established thin to 6 in. apart. Or set out nursery grown plants in early spring,

Harvesting:

  • Leaves can be cut 4-6 mo, after sowing: then cut often and close to ground. 

Preserving:

  • Leaves lose color in drying. Instead of drying, grow winter supplies indoors by potting a few clumps in fall and keeping them near a sunny window, Can also be preserved by deep freezing

Propagation

  • Lift and divide clumps every 3 or 4 yr.

Related References