We’ve had a couple of frosts now, but the garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) are still going strong – and still hoaching with hoverflies on a sunny day. I think of garlic chives as a sort of late-season wild garlic (Allium ursinum). They have all the same edible parts: leaves, flowers, seeds and (rather fiddly) bulbs. They also have much the same uses, imparting a garlicky tang to soups, salads, sauces, pestos – pretty much anything you like. They also have the same limitation, which is that cooking breaks down their flavour quite quickly, so it’s best to add them near the end of the cooking.
The difference is that where wild garlic is a woodland plant that prefers to lurk in the shade, garlic chives are sun worshippers. This means that while wild garlic has big, flat leaves to harvest every ray of sunshine going and rushes through its life cycle before the leaves come on the trees, garlic chives have long, thin leaves and a more leisurely approach to life. If you have both species you’ll only be without their flavour for a couple of months a year.
So long as they have their sunny spot and a well-drained soil, garlic chives are unfussy plants, tolerating drought and a wide range of soil types. They are hardy too, only dying down for a few months of the year and starting back into growth when the temperature goes above 3°C. Their main drawback is that they are so keen on flowering that they are not hugely productive: most of their energy goes into blossoming. However, their flavour is quite strong so you don’t need much, you can eat the flowers too and who could argue with all those hoverflies?