Garlic Chives: Allium All-Stars

Garlic chives differ from the more common onion chives in shape and nutritional density.

There are two kinds of chives, onion and garlic. What is most commonly found in American stores and herb gardens is the onion variety, which has thin tube-like leaves and a bright but mild flavor. Garlic chives are more popular in Asian cuisine and are sometimes referred to as Chinese chives for that reason. They have wider, flat leaves, a pungent garlic aroma, and distinct garlic flavor. Because garlic chives are LowFODMAP, this makes them the perfect substitute in recipes that call for garlic. 

Popular dishes that traditionally use garlic chives include spring rolls, hot-and-sour soup, and pot stickers. But there’s excellent reason to include garlic chives in everyday recipes and in place of regular onion chives: garlic chives contain more antioxidants than the hottest onion, even heirloom onion varieties can’t compete! This medicinally potent herb has long been utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a number of ailments, including fatigue and disorders of the liver, kidney, and digestive system.

Modern science helps us to understand why it is that garlic chives have come to receive their healing status. One reason is that they offer more vitamin A than any other member of the Allium vegetable fam, which also includes onions, garlic, and scallions. 100 g of this fresh herb contains 4353 IU of vitamin A. That’s a whopping 145% of the daily recommended levels, an incredible boost for those of us fighting viral infections. (Reference point for my fellow Americans: 100 g is equal to about two cups of well chopped garlic chives.)

Garlic chives are also a great source of vitamin K. Within the herb world they come second in nutritional density only to basil (a true vitamin K superfood.)  One cup of the spicy greens provide 106 µg of vitamin K which is more than 130% of the daily recommended value. Scientific studies have linked optimal vitamin K levels to healthy bones, and thusly a decreased risk of osteoporosis.  


But here’s what really gets me excited: adequate levels of vitamin K have also been shown to limit neuronal damage in the brain. Multiple studies have confirmed that there’s a connection between vitamin K deficiency and the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. On the flip side, healthy levels of this calcium regulating nutrient are shown to support neurological wellness. That’s why vitamin K supplementation has been used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. Because I have neurological Lyme Disease, ensuring that I get enough of vitamin K is also part of my healing plan. Note: all dark leafy greens contain high amounts of vitamin K, but due to my individual food intolerances many of them are off-limits, making garlic chives a valuable source of this valuable nutrient.

Like garlic, garlic chives are also an abundant source of the phytonutrient Allicin. And Allicin is serious medicine. One milligram of the stuff (the amount in about 3 cloves) has the antibacterial punch of a standard dose of penicillin. True story: Allicin is so effective that during World War II Russian soldiers applied mashed raw garlic to their infected wounds. But here’s the thing… Garlic and garlic chives contain the ingredients for Allicin, but not the actual compound. Well, not until you step in and make the magic happen!

Chop, chop, wait…

By chopping or mincing the chives you ruptures the cell walls of the plant and allow the two once separate components (alliin and alliinase) to cozy up. Their love child is Allicin. But there’s more. Alliinase is heat sensitive. If you immediately cook your chopped chives, Allicin won’t form, and you won’t reap it’s benefits. That’s why you want to wait ten minutes between cutting and cooking. Do that and you’ll have given the Allicin ample time to form. Once Allicin the has been created through co-mingling (via your no doubt impressive knife skillz) you can heat it all you want without affecting its nutritional benefits.

The best (and prettiest) way to store chives is to keep them in a glass of fresh water.

So you’re sold on garlic chives right? Where can you find ’em? The best place to shop for garlic chives is Asian grocery stores, although some Farmers Markets now offer them seasonally as well. Alternatively, if you’ve got a garden or a bit of sunny counter space, I’d recommend growing your own. Chives are an easy-to-grow container herb and produce pretty purple pom-pom-like flowers that makes great garnishes. A number of heirloom seed companies offer the seeds to get you started. If you buy a harvested bunch, cut chives and scallions are best stored in a glass of water on the kitchen counter. This way they keep growing even as I snip-snip them! Just make sure you change the water every couple of days to keep them fresh.

Ready to start cooking? Check out these recipes featuring garlic chives:

IMG_1753Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Garlic Chives and Smoked Bonito Shavings (Paleo, Low-carb/Ketogenic, LowFODMAP)



img_3537-0Steamed Black Cod with Ginger and Chives — just substitute garlic chives! (AIP Paleo, Low-carb/Ketogenic, LowFODMAP)




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