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Tastes like garlic but looks like chives

A new plant in garden shops this year, a member of the onion family, is a kind of chives which tastes like garlic. It is confusing, but it is called either Chinese garlic or garlic chives or Allium tuberosumm . It looks somewhat like chies, but has flat leaves and grows up to two feet tall.

The leaves have a mild but distinct garlic, rather than onion flavor, although it is somewhat stronger than chives. It serves very well as a garlic substitute, and flower buds, heads, and stems can all be used in cooking, especially in Chinese and stir-fry dishes.

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The garlic chive leaves, chopped fine, are good in dishes you would like with either chives or garlic -- scrambled eggs, salads, breads, soups, vegetables, meats, or sour cream or yogurt dips.

When picking garlic chives you don't snip off the tops of the leaves, since this will hurt the plant. Instead whole leaves are cut all the way down to the ground.

In appearance this plant is similar to ordinary garden chives, but the leaves are flat instead of round and they are not hollow. It grows from about 6 inches to 2 feet long, and it can be potted and brought indoors in the fall for use in cooking

My garden already includes several other members of the allium family and I suppose I didn't really need another. But I planted some last year and they came up again early this spring. I also have too many of the common chives, or Allium schoenoprasum,m and the Egyptian onion, with its tiny bulbs on top of long hollow stems. They both multiply rapidly and winter over well.

I have also planted shallots, garlic, bunching, and yellow onions. But a friend gave me some garlic chives and I like them.

Millie Owen, who has written a book on herbs, has several recipes for chives Her soup with garlic chives is excellent, and so is her fake sour cream recipe -- a good topping for baked potatoes. The following recipes can be used for either kind of chives. They are in Millie's book, "A Cooks Guide to Growing Herbs, Greens and Aromatics," (Knopf: $6.95). Chive Soup 3 medium potatoes 1 1/2 cups chicken stock 1/2 pound chives, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces 3 cups milk (approximately) 1 cup cream Chive flowers (optional)

Peel and slice potatoes and cook in chicken stock until soft. Combine chives , potato, stock, and 1 cup milk in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

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Pour mixture into saucepan and add cream. Stir in remaining milk until the consistency is about that of thin pancake batter -- or the thickness you prefer. Heat just to boiling but do not boil. Serve hot or chilled If you like, sprinkle several chive flowers on each bowl of soup before serving. Makes about 2 quarts. Millie's Chive Topping 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 cup uncreamed (whole curd) cottage cheese 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice 3 tablespoons minced chives

Shake the buttermilk, place it in the blender with cottage cheese and lemon juice, and blend at highest speed until very smooth, or use a food processor. Ford in chives and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving; it thickens as it chills. It will keep about a week in the refrigerator.

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