Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Garlic Chives - Herb-of-the-Week

Every Wednesday  is Herb-of-the-Week day, I feature a blog on a special herb each Wednesday and detail it uses, growing habit and include recipes using the herb, and will include herbs to prove not all herbs are for eating!
This week’s herb is Garlic Chives
There's garlic (Allium sativum), and there are chives (A. schoenoprasum)—and then there are garlic chives (A. tuberosum, also called Chinese chives), which are just at this time of year, brightening the garden with pretty globes of starry white flowers, dearly loved by the bees.
Since they are practically the same as Graden Chives, Garlic Chives can be used and stored in the same manner. They are distinguishable from chives by their flat, broader leaves and fragrant white flowers. Otherwise, they look very similar in appearance.

As you would expect by the name, garlic chives have a delicate garlic flavor and are used extensively in oriental dishes. Garlic chives are a good choice for those who shy away from full-flavored garlic, just as regular chives are happily consumed by those who do not care for the strong taste of fresh onions.
They are a perennial that grows from a rhizome to a height of 20 inches.  It will flower in the fall and the flowers or leaves can be used to make herbal vinegar.  Since garlic cloves are considered slightly hazardous for making vinegar, I use Garlic Chives instead.  You can make the vinegar just like any herbal vinegar, enjoy the wonderful flavor of garlic and the long shelf life and not worry about botulism or other bacterial issues.
Like its cousin Garden Chives, Garlic Chives grows in a clump, however it easily propogates by seed which it produces in profusion in the lovely white flowers. The tiny black seeds can be collected them by tapping the drying seed head onto a plate.  You can then sprout the seeds for spicy salad sprouts. Or you can clip the seed heads while they're still green, dry them in paper bags, shake out the seeds, and add the pretty heads to your herbal wreaths. Or you can let Nature take its course, in which case you will have more garlic chives than you know what to do with. (Of course, they do make lovely pass along plants.) In cold regions, they'll die back to the ground and pop up again in the spring. Every two or three years, dig and divide the clump in the fall.
Using Garlic Chives
Snipping the flat, narrow green leaves into salads, omelets, soups, and mashed potatoes, where they add color and a subtle garlic taste. The tender young leaves are best to cook with, so it's a good idea to shear the entire clump back to the ground every three or four weeks, to make sure that the leaves don't get tough and bitter. You can dry the snipped leaves for winter-time use, or pop them into small plastic bags and freeze them.
Chinese herbalists use garlic chives to stimulate the appetite, improve digestion, and fight fatigue—another reason to plant and enjoy this ornamental culinary herb.
Medicinally it can be used to help with nasal congestion and cold symptums and does have some of the same antiviral/antibacterial properties of garlic, but is not as potent.

Garlic Chive Blossom Stir-fry

This recipe calls for flowering chives, also called flowering Chinese chives or flowering leeks. This popular Chinese delicacy is inexpensive, and sometimes available in the produce section of local supermarkets as well as Asian groceries.  The trick to this easy side dish is not to overcook the chives. It goes well with everything from noodles to fish or prawns. Serves 2 to 4.

2 bunches flowering chives
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons chicken broth or water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil for stir-frying
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 4 teaspoons water
  1. Wash the flowering chives and drain. Cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces (use the buds).  
  2. Combine the soy sauce, chicken broth and sugar. Set aside.
  3. Heat wok on medium-high heat. Add the oil, drizzling down the sides. When the oil is hot, add the flowering chives. Stir-fry for about 1 minute, until they turn a brighter green.
  4. Push the chives up to the sides of the wok. Add the sauce in the middle. Add the cornstarch/water mixture to the sauce, stirring quickly to thicken.
  5. Mix the sauce with the flowering chives, cook until the sauce is boiling, but don't overcook. Serve immediately.
Chinese Scrambled Eggs

This recipe for Chinese scrambled eggs is made with Chinese garlic chives. These go very nicely with egg, but you can use regular chives as well. This dish typically calls for a large quantity of chives - feel free to reduce the amount to 2 or 3 tablespoons and add other seasonings if desired.  Serves 2 to 4

1 1/2 - 2 ounces Chinese garlic chives (to make 1/3 cup chopped)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce or up to 1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  1. Wash and drain the garlic chives. Remove the hard ends and any wilted green leaves at the top and chop into 1-inch lengths until you have 1/3 cup (5 tablespoons).
  2. Lightly beat the eggs. Add the soy sauce or salt, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and pepper.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet on medium high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lifting the frying pan so that the oil covers the bottom of the pan.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the chives. Stir-fry briefly, then add the beaten egg mixture. Reduce the heat to medium and gently scramble the eggs. Remove them from the heat when they are just done but still moist. Serve hot.

Herbal Vinegar with Garlic Chives
To make herb vinegar, wash and dry your fresh herbs thoroughly then pour warm vinegar, not hot, over them in glass jars. You can use any type of vinegar but distilled. Be sure that the fresh herbs are completely covered by the vinegar. Seal the jar and allow them to sit for a month or two to mingle the flavors. Do not allow the herb vinegar access to direct sunlight

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