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Versatile Garlic Chives

Types of Garlic Chives, Buying and Cooking Tips, Nutritional Information

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Versatile Garlic Chives

These garlic chives are approximately 18 inches long.

Rhonda Parkinson
When is a chive not a chive? When it's a Chinese garlic chive.

With their white flowers, long green shoots and lack of a bulb, garlic chives bear a strong resemblance to regular chives. That's not surprising, since both are members of the onion family. However, in this case appearances are deceiving. While the standard chive has a mild flavor similar to onions, Chinese garlic chives are known for their strong “garlicky” flavor.

The combination of a chive-like appearance and strong flavor makes garlic chives a popular seasoning. You’ll find chopped chives showing up in Chinese recipes for soups, stews, salads and even meat marinades. But don’t feel you need to get out the wok to enjoy them. Garlic chives make a flavourful alternative to regular chives in non-Asian dishes. Feel free to add a few snips of garlic chives the next time you’re preparing scrambled eggs or an omelette, or substitute them for regular chives in a recipe for herbed bread.

Need another reason to try them? They’re a great substitute for garlic on nights when you don’t feel like smashing and peeling cloves. Now, all that’s left is to decide which variety of Chinese garlic chive - all of which come from the same plant - best meets your needs:

Standard garlic chives (Gau Choy) – Garlic chives look similar to chives, but their leaves are broad and flat instead of hollow. Their garlicky flavor enhances cooked dishes, particularly ones where the food is slowly simmered in a sauce, such as red-cooked stews or soups, or in a stuffing. Use them also to add flavor to stir-fries. They go particularly well with eggs and seafood – you’ll often find them paired with scrambled eggs or prawns.
Flowering Chives (Gau Choy Fa) – Flowering chives have hollow, light green stems and yellow buds on the end. But don’t let their delicate appearance fool you: flowering chives have a stronger garlicky flavor than Gau Choy. A popular delicacy in Chinese cuisine, they are used in salads and stir-fried alone. The yellow buds make an attractive garnish and, unlike regular chives, they are edible. Their popularity means that flowering chives are often easier to find than garlic chives, both in regular supermarkets and Asian groceries. Feel free to use them in place of garlic chives.
Yellow Chives (Gau Wong) – Yellow chives are garlic chives that have been grown under cover, without any exposure to direct sunlight. This prevents the leaves from turning green, as the plant’s chlorophyll-absorbing molecules never kick into action.
Yellow chives have thick flat leaves, a yellow color, and a mild, “oniony” flavor. Like flowering chives, they are considered to be a delicacy, and often served alone or paired with another vegetable in a stir-fry. Use them in soups, with noodles, or whenever you want to add chives with a milder flavor than either garlic or flowering chives.

Garlic Chive Preparation and Cooking Tips

Fresh garlic chives have a short lifespan. When purchasing regular garlic chives, look for dark green leaves with no sign of wilting. Remove any dark green leaves that have wilted before cooking. Flowering chives usually come packaged, with the ends already trimmed. Look for a bright green color and fat yellow buds. Both of these types of chives will last for a few days stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Fresh yellow chives, on the other hand, should be used within the same day. Whichever type of chive you buy, trim off the ends if they are not already trimmed and wash thoroughly before using.

For best results, add the chives near the end of the cooking process – otherwise the flavor fades.

Nutritional Information About Garlic Chives

Garlic chives pack a major nutritional punch for a mere 30 calories per 100 grams. Low in fat and high in dietary fibre and protein, they contain high amounts of Vitamin C and carotene, and are a good source of calcium. They also contain Vitamin B1 and B2. In Chinese medicine, garlic chives are considered to be a yang or warming food.

Garlic Chives – The Ultimate Antiseptic?
Like other members of the garlic and onion family, garlic chives contain a sulphur-rich mustard oil that aids digestion and helps promote the flow of blood. The rejuvenating power of this oil has been known since ancient times, when chives were used to heal wounds. Today, Chinese cooks put garlic chives’ antiseptic qualities to good use by combining the chives with pork fat to season a wok.

More Resources, Including Recipes

Garlic Chives Recipes - recipes for all three types of garlic chives

Photo of Yellow Chives

Alternate Names:
Garlic chives: Gau Choy, Chinese chives, Chinese Leek, Nira (in Japan)
Flowering Chives: Gau Choy Fa, Flowering garlic chives, Flowering Chinese chives, flowering leek, Chinese leek flower,
Yellow Chives: Blanched chives
Scientific Name: Allium Tuberosum

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