garlic chives (blossom too)

I lusted after pretty purple onion chive blossoms all spring and early summer, little did I know then that I would meet a very different chive blossom come mid September.


Chives are really just tiny onions and perhaps that's why I am so obsessed with them! Very easy to grow and a natural insect repellent in the garden, chive blossoms also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Chives have the unique quality of being native to both the  New and Old Worlds, deriving from Asia, Europe and North America. While there are technically 4 varieties of chives that I was able to find we most commonly see onion and garlic (Chinese chives) types. The Herb Society of America also lists Giant Siberian Chives and Siberian Garlic Chives as similar yet distinctive species (another reason to add to the list of reasons to visit Siberia! ;D).  Also worth mentioning is the yellow/golden/albino variety of chives available, where the growing technique is completely devoid of light thus preventing the plant from producing a green color from chlorophyll. Yellow chives are milder and sweeter then their green friends (and also more fragile). 

We grow both onion and garlic chives in our backyard herb box, and this year I really noticed the difference between the two. First, and most obvious is the difference between the scapes: onion chives are hollow tubes while garlic chives look more like flat bladed grass. The flavor profiles are also different and I bet you can take a stab at how based on their names ;D garlic chives are often used as a milder replacement for garlic itself and widely used in a lot of Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. 

Onion chives are what we see most associated with chive blossoms, the beautiful purple puff balls with intense flavor that reach prime-time in late spring/early summer.  Our garlic chive plant did "OK" throughout summer but has really started taking off in these late days before early fall. About two weeks ago I noticed a tiny white bulb forming on the end of an especially long scape.


The bulb first reminded me of the end of a garlic scape that forms when the bulbs are nearly ready to be harvested. A few days later the bulb was bursting with these tiny white pyramid like buds at which point I busted out the camera to document it's activity.  It took a few days for the  buds to open up but well worth the wait! I am so pleased to be able to share my one stunning garlic chive blossom with you!


Opposite to the purple puffs of onion chives, garlic chive blossoms form equally beautiful white star-like flowers with distinctive yellow stamen and a longer lasting bloom. Both can be used in cooking to add intensified flavor or as a garnish in salads, eggs, pastas, pizzas etc.  If left un-picked  garlic chive blossoms will dry out and leave behind peppery seeds that can also be used in cooking.

This September, my garlic chives are getting a lot of use as you can imagine! I think I will wait for the peppery seeds of the blossom to be left behind and enjoy the bloom while so many other plants are beginning to dwindle at the end of summer.