Chinese herbalists have used garlic chives to stimulate the appetite, fight fatigue and improve digestion. As well as having both medicinal and culinary uses, this pungent herb is also ornamental.
The botanical name is Allium tuberosum, and it produces small globes of starry white flowers in mid-summer and blooms for about a month. The flowers are as attractive to bees as they are to gardeners.
To use chives in cooking, cut the narrow green leaves and add them to omelets, salads, mashed potatoes, soups and stews. The younger leaves taste the best, so give a clump of chives a haircut every 3 or 4 weeks to keep the plant renewed and the leaves tender. You can even snip the leaves and freeze them in small plastic bags for use over the winter.
Another bonus is that you can harvest the tiny black seeds from the white flower globes. Tap a bunch of flower heads as they dry and save the seeds that fall out onto a plate. Or clip the flower heads and save them in a paper bag.
Chives are rampant self seeders, and if they are not dead headed they will produce far too many new plants.
During the winter if seeds are sowed under lights there will be an ample supply of spicy sprouts for salads.
If you have limited space in your garden, sow chive seeds in pots, or pull up extra seedlings in the spring to contain their exuberance. However, this plant certainly has many virtues that make it worth the bother, as its flowers can also be dried and look lovely in wreaths.