Allium tuberosum

Allium tuberosum
Flowering garlic chives
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Allioideae
Tribe: Allieae
Genus: Allium
Species: A. tuberosum
Binomial name
Allium tuberosum
Rottler ex Spreng. 1825 not Roxb. 1832[1][2]

Allium tuberosum (garlic chives, Oriental garlic, Asian chives, Chinese chives, Chinese leek)[4] is a species of onion native to southwestern parts of the Chinese province of Shanxi, and cultivated and naturalized elsewhere in Asia and around the world.[5][6][1]


Allium tuberosum is a perennial plant[7] growing from a small, elongated bulb (about 10 mm, 1332 inch, across), tough and fibrous, originating from a stout rhizome.[8][4] It has a distinctive growth habit with strap-shaped leaves 1.5 to 8 mm (116 to 516 in) wide[9] unlike either onion or garlic. It produces many white flowers in a round cluster (umbel) on stalks 25 to 60 cm (10 to 24 in) tall.[5] It grows in slowly expanding perennial clumps, but also readily sprouts from seed. In warmer areas (USDA zone 8 and warmer), garlic chives may remain green all year round. In cold areas (USDA zones 7 to 4b), leaves and stalks completely die back to the ground, and resprout from roots or rhizomes in the spring.[10]

The flavor is more like garlic than chives.[9]


Originally described by Johan Peter Rottler, the species name was validly published by Curt Polycarp Joachim Sprengel in 1825.[2] A. tuberosum is classified within Allium in subgenus Butomissa (Salisb.) N. Friesen, section Butomissa (Salisb.) Kamelin, a very small group consisting of only A. tuberosum and A. ramosum L.,[11][12] which have been variously regarded as either one or two genetic entities.[13]

Distribution and habitat

Originating in the Siberian–Mongolian–North Chinese steppes,[11] but widely cultivated and naturalised. A. tuberosum is currently reported to be found growing wild in scattered locations in the United States. (Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, Alabama, Iowa, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin).[14][15][16] However, it is believed to be more widespread in North America because of availability of seeds and seedlings of this species as an exotic herb and because of its high aggressiveness. This species is also widespread across much of mainland Europe[17] and invasive in other areas of the world.[18]


A late summer- to autumnal-blooming plant,[4] A. tuberosum is one of several Allium species known as wild onion and/or wild garlic that in various parts of the world, such as Australia, are listed as noxious weeds[14] or as invasive "serious high impact environmental and/or agricultural weeds that spread rapidly and often create monocultures".[18]


Often grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, several cultivars are available. A. tuberosum is distinctive by blooming later than most native or naturalised species of Allium.[15] It is cold-hardy to USDA hardiness zones 4–10 (−30 to +35 °F, −34 to 2 °C).[8]

A number of varieties have been developed for either improved leaf (e.g. 'Shiva') or flower stem (e.g. 'Nien Hua') production.[19] While the emphasis in Asia has been primarily culinary, in North America, the interest has been more as an ornamental.[20] 'Monstrosum' is a giant ornamental cultivar.[21]


(Chinese) leek
Hanyu Pinyin jiǔ

Uses have included ornamental plants, including cut and dried flowers, culinary herb, and traditional medicine. Garlic chives have been widely cultivated for centuries in East Asia for its culinary value. The flat leaves, the stalks, and immature, unopened flower buds are used as flavouring.[22] Another form is "blanched" by regrowing after cutting under cover to produce white-yellow leaves and a subtler flavor.[23]

In Japan (where it is known as nira, Japanese: ), A. tuberosum is used for both garlic and sweet flavours, in soups and salads, and traditional Japanese and Chinese dishes. Chinese names for A. tuberosum (韭菜) vary depending on the plant part, and between Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese, as well as varying romanizations.[13][22] For instance, the green leaves are jiu cai, the flower stem jiu cai hua, and blanched leaves jiu huang in Mandarin, but gau tsoi (kow choi), gau tsoi fa, and gau wong in Cantonese, respectively.[24] Other renderings include cuchay, kucai, kuchay, or kutsay.

The leaves are used as a flavoring in a similar way to chives, scallions, or garlic, and are included as a stir fry ingredient. In China, they are often used to make dumplings with a combination of egg, shrimp, and pork. They are a common ingredient in Chinese jiaozi dumplings and the Japanese and Korean equivalents. Garlic chives are widely used in Korean cuisine, where they are known as buchu (Korean: 부추), most notably in dishes such as buchukimchi (부추김치, garlic chive kimchi), buchujeon (부추전, garlic chive pancakes), or jaecheopguk (a guk, or clear soup, made with garlic chives and Asian clams).[25] A Chinese flatbread similar to the scallion pancake may be made with garlic chives instead of scallions; such a pancake is called a jiucai bing (韭菜饼) or jiucai you bing (韭菜油饼). Garlic chives are also one of the main ingredients used with yi mein (E-Fu) dishes.[26] In Nepal, cooks fry a curried vegetable dish of potatoes and A. tuberosum known as dunduko sag.[27] In Manipur and other northeastern states of India, it is grown and used as a substitute for garlic and onion in cooking and is known as maroi nakupi. In Thailand, they are known as gui chai. In Vietnam, the leaves of garlic chives (hẹ) are cut up into short pieces and used as the only vegetable in a broth with sliced pork kidneys.[28]




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