Garlic, Onions & Chives

(Allium Sativum, Allium Cepa and Allium Schoenoprasum)

Although two of these plants (garlic and chives) are herbs and could have been included in the “herbs" section, onion is certainly a vegetable and these Allium genus plants are so delicious and yet healing that they deserve a section of their own. These plants are popular today and have been so for centuries.
Garlic, or rather the lack of it. caused the first strike in history. It is said that slaves building the pyramids dawned tools after the garlic ran out. Egyptian papyri list 22 prescriptions using garlic and Pliny, in 1st-century Rome, prescribed it for 61 maladies. Around the same time in India, it was thought to prevent heart disease and rheumatism. Mohammed believed it cured snakebite, and by Shakespeare’s time it had graduated to being regarded as an aphrodisiac. Much later, in World War II, it was used medicinally as an antiseptic on wounds.
Onions have been cultivated for 6000years. When the slaves building the pyramids were not eating garlic, they ate onions. Hippocrates thought onions were good for sight, and that a slice tied on a bee sting should reduce the swelling or pain. An old wives' tale is that snakes are frightened away by onions. Their main use in cooking is to add flavor and for centuries they have been favorites among the less well off because they are an accessible food that can add flavor to any dish.
Chives are perhaps the least celebrated of this trio but they are also believed to be the oldest: they grew wild across the Americas. Europe and Asia. As well as being a delightful addition to cooking and having abundant healing properties, they also add a splash of color and life to your garden with their delightful purple Rowers. These blossoms can be used to make an infused oil.

Garlic is the best known and best researched of these three Allium plants for its healing qualities. Perhaps the best known of these qualities is its capacity as an antibiotic. It has been shown to reduce the duration of colds and also to reduce the likelihood of catching colds. Chemicals known as disulfides that give garlic its smell are known to be active against fungus and bacteria. As well as acting as an antibiotic and directly killing a variety of bugs, garlic also stimulates your own immunity. This means that it helps your body fight the infection at the same time as directly acting against the infectious agent. Chewing on a garlic bulb fresh from your garden is a great way to fight off the beginnings of a cold.
Less widely known but equally as dramatic are garlic's heart benefits. It has a beneficial effect on blood fats, blood pressure and blood clotting. Garlic lowers overall cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The added bonus is that garlic increases good HDL cholesterol levels while lowering bad LDL cholesterol. There is also evidence that garlic lowers blood pressure and keeps blood thin. Thus garlic has great potential to lower your overall cardiac risk.
Immune-boosting effects also mean that garlic may protect against cancer. Studies do suggest that cancer rates are lowest where garlic consumption is highest. A report published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showed that garlic (along with onions and chives) has been shown to be protective against stomach and colon cancer. Although the exact mechanism of the protective effect is not clear, it appears to be related to the sulfur compounds these plants contain.

Garlic and arthritis
Comparison of twins showed that those who consumed high levels of garlic had significantly less evidence of early arthritis of the hip joint. The researchers found that diallyl-sulfide from garlic stops the release of enzymes that damage the cartilage in joints (BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders).

Garlic kills food bacteria
A bacterium called Campylobacter is the most common bacterial cause of food- related illness. Symptoms of Campylobacter infection include diarrhoea, stomach cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. A biofilm is a collection of bacteria in which the organisms adhere to each other on a surface.
When researchers tested a Campylobacter biofilm they found that it was 1000 times more resistant to antibiotics than free Floating bacterial cells. Diallyl sulphide however, was able to penetrate the biofilm and was found to be 100 times as effective as the antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin and also worked much faster {Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Garlic cuts nitrosamines

Nitrosamines are found in food and some nitrosamines are carcinogenic. They are made when you consume nitrates, commonly from processed meats, high heat processed foods, or water contaminated by industry run-off. About 20 per cent of nitrates are converted to nitrites and these can be converted into nitrosamines. Vegetables also contain nitrates but the vitamin C in vegetables lowers the risk that they will turn into something toxic.
Researchers gave subjects a dose of sodium nitrate and then garlic capsules, or vitamin C or nothing for seven days. The garlic lowered nitrosamine Formation as did vitamin C (Analytical Biochemistry).

Like all Allium plants, onions are a wonderful source of sulfur and this means that like garlic they are good For your heart and have antibiotics properties. A great healing home-made remedy is to cover chopped onions in honey (preferably Manuka) and place the mixture in the Fridge overnight. By morning you will have a throat soothing decongestant that even the kids will take.
Onions are an outstanding source of antioxidant polyphenols, including the flavonoid polyphenols. Within this Flavonoid category, onions are a standout source of quercetin. Unfortunately many of the polyphenols are Found in the outer layers of the onion and end up being in your compost So save as many of those outer layers as you can for your cooking.


Chives have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine to promote sweating probably due to the stimulatory properties of the sulfides they contain. Chives also contain high levels of iron and calcium and antioxidants like beta- carotene and quercetin. The green shoots of chives offer a delicate flavor for almost any meal and their flowers can be made into a delicious dressing. Just start snipping blossoms as they open and pop them into a glass container keeping them covered in vinegar. If you continue to cut and remove all the blossoms, this will force the plant to keep making flowers. Once you have as many as you can muster cover and let steep in a dark cupboard for at least two weeks. The delicate taste of chive blossom vinegar will blow you away.

Grow Your Garlic, Onion and Chives
When to plant: Plant individual cloves of garlic pointy end up from autumn through to winter in cool climates. But for temperate areas plant in autumn and harvest before the wet in November or December. Most onions are difficult to grow in subtropical climates and not suited for tropical areas. Sow chive seeds directly in the patch all year in tropical regions, but from spring to autumn in other zones.

Climate: Onions are best suited to cooler climates, but there are some varieties suited to warmer areas. Garlic is also more productive in cooler, dry regions. Chives are suited to most climates.

Aspect/placement: Full sun, chives also tolerate some shade.

Specific needs: Onions and other alliums like well drained friable soil but don’t overfeed with nitrogen. Add some lime before planting. Mulch with pea straw or lucerne. Water garlic well during the growing season, but withhold before harvest so bulbs don't rot. Garlic grows well in pots as do chives

Companion planting: Carrots.

Harvesting: Onions ready to harvest once the tops start to die off. but it can take six months to produce mature bulbs. Harvest garlic after flowering and when foliage begins to yellow and die off. Hang in a warm, dark place to mature and dry. Cut chives when ready, but leave abut 5cm on the plant. Just keep snipping for better production.

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