The tender attributes of garlic chives

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) posses such an above ground showiness they are known more as visual spectacle than food. When used in the kitchen, or included in edible landscapes, it is almost always as an obscure herb rather than a substantial vegetable.

The truth is it can be a side dish of its own if you know its more tender attributes.

I say this, first and foremost, because garlic chives readily propagate themselves. To me, abundance is a prerequisite to utility in perennial cooking; because just about any small delicacy can be made a meal if you have enough of it. Garlic chives not only divide to form handsome, large clumps in short order if conditions are sunny and fertile as they like, they also self seed like crazy.

The leaves themselves are a small delicacy. In early spring these come up thick, each leaf flat, with rounded tips like linguine noodles. As there is almost nothing below ground on this plant, it’s most productive for future harvests to pick only a few of these above ground leaves from each plant, leaving a couple on the base to produce the real harvest of flower and stem.

These stems show up around late August for me, with a trickle of flowers popping their papery covers throughout the month.

The flowers themselves can be tossed over salads. The stems can be snipped as young as you find them. By the time a stem has an open flower on top, it has become far to tough to enjoy.

There is a point, just as the unopened buds still hang their heads down, but the stem has begun to get hard at the bottom, that the top quarter to third of the stem is still tender.

Here I prepared garlic chives at about this stage. I sprinkled the with some oil (ghee, or butter oil in this case) , beef broth, hickory smoked salt, pepper, with mint and oregano flowers on top, and let sit while a pan heated. Once the pan was warm enough I could throw water on it and watch the water skitter around bubbling, I threw this mixture in the pan, stirred, reduced heat, then swished the liquids around in the pan to keep them bubbling between the stems until it was about gone and a thick sauce covered them.

These can be eaten like large asparagus -picking up the stem at the bottom, munching the tender part as far down as you enjoy.

At any point you can harvest whatever portion is tender and throw them into stir-fry or the like. Harvesting with the hard stems makes them more of an event to be savored.

Despite the name, garlic chives actually have a very mild, really sweet flavor. It can be added to salads, raw, or cooked in rich dishes, where it adds light overtones of garlic, luscious sweetness, and, if not overcooked, pleasant crunch. The garlic character really comes out more in the scent than the flavor.

I should mention Allium cernuum, or nodding onion, is almost exactly the same as garlic chives, except for the flavor. Whereas garlic chives are so mild and sweet, with garlic overtones, nodding onion has a robust onion flavor, and scent which can even smart the eyes as you’re harvesting.

Otherwise, the two are exactly the same in spreading themselves, time of harvest, character of the stems as the main crop, and the fact so many gardeners have mistaken for a mere ornamental what are truly delicious gastronomic delicacies.

Edible sunchokes – other than the roots

I was intrigued the other day with Heather’s (readers might recognize her comments under Wooddogs3) experiment with young sunflower stems. Check it out here.

I wondered how the annual Helianthus annuus (sunflower) would compare to the perennial H. tuberosus (sunchokes)?

I had the green light for blanched sunchoke tops several years ago from the ever experimenting Radix. See his post here. I have yet to remember to blanch my ‘chokes, so never followed through on this.

Per the approval of my exceedingly picky food forest rabbit, I have guessed for a while that the green tops must be tasty. So I decided to try some for myself following Heather’s method for sunflower.

My hugelkulture, mentioned in “Roots as of now,” is overwhelmed with the stuff anymore (“Clearwater” variety. Runs like mad) making it easy to snap off a handful. They’re about a foot tall now.

Accept for the very tips, I removed the leaves, which rabbit enjoyed for her lunch, and the tendon-like strings near the bottoms by peeling off the skin. The upper half didn’t have any strings I could find.

It was a bit tedious, and took me around 15 minutes for what’s pictured.

Without further processing I threw them into a hot skillet of butter and avacado oil (no particular reason for this oil. I like to mix butter and oil for saute, and avacado is what I had around) tipping the pan one way and another to cover the stems in hot oil until soft and crisp.

They tasted good. A mild bitterness, which to me is more than a stand-alone warrants, but good as an ingredient.

Most surprisingly, the leaf tips I left on were the most mild part -crunchy, and quite pleasant. Hardly any fuzziness as I had expected.

I chopped these up and mixed them with some lambsquarter shoots cooked the same way.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention any flavoring for these greens. None were added. I mixed up a ginger-sesame salad dressing, drizzled this over the top with a sprinkling of goji berries and called it good.

It was very good. The slight bitterness of the sunchokes became a nutty richness when combined with the lambsquarter. There was one bite where I realized I was munching on a sunchoke leaf, but that was due to a delightful crispness.

Thanks for the inspiration Heather!

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