Tag Archives: herbs

Garlic Chives Hum

People wonder why I have such a large patch of garlic chives. It’s about six by ten feet. The answer comes when the garlic chives hum.

Unlike regular chives with found leaves and oniony taste, garlic chives have flat leaves and a peppery taste. They are great in scrambled eggs, stir fries, cheese sauce, salads and more.

wasps make garlic chives hum
Several kinds of wasps visit the garlic chives. These have two white bands. Another has a red abdomen. Another has a red band. They climb over one umbel and move to the next one.

Still, I do have a much larger patch than I really need. Even with the goats helping, I have more than I can use.

So why not shrink the patch?

In mid August my garlic chives hum. I can hear them as soon as I enter the garden.

moths on garlic chives
Moths usually come out at night. These thought the garlic chives too good to miss. The usual butterfly crowd includes buckeyes, 8 spot grape, dusky skipper, skippers, occasional monarchs, fritillaries and swallowtails.

All right, plants can’t really hum. The patch can.

The patch is a field of white flowers. Bees, wasps, beetles, bumblebees, butterflies, moths add the hum. The flowers seem to shimmer with movement as the insects move from umbel to umbel.

The types of insects stays much the same from year to year. The numbers of each type changes. Their single minded activity remains the same as I can walk beside the patch touching flowers and not disturb them at all.

honeybees make the garlic chives hum
Almost 30 years ago a beekeeper abandoned two hives. The bees moved out into the wild. They still live somewhere in the area. The garlic chives were a magnet for them this year.

Although the garlic chive flowers are the focus of the activity, the insects do spread out across the garden. The tomatoes, okra, peppers and squash appreciate being pollinated too.

My garlic chives hum with frantic activity for about two weeks. Then the flowers are slowly replaced with seed heads.

My patch is large enough. These plants spread aggressively both by seeds and by shoots.

bumblebees make garlic chives hum
At least three different kinds of bumblebees live in the area. All come to gather nectar at the garlic chives.

When the seed heads make up most of the umbels, it is time to slow down the inexorable spread. The pruners cut down the seed heads as far into the patch as I can reach. These are tossed into the middle where new plants can muscle in.

New leaves grow up for use in the kitchen until killing frost puts the plants to bed for the winter. But next year I will hear my garlic chives hum once again.

Basil Variety Exists

On the grocery store herb rack there is one variety of basil. This might lead a person to think only one basil variety exists.

basil variety Sweet or Mammoth
This is the variety of basil I usually grow. Mammoth or sweet basil lives up to its name. The plant can be three feet tall with large crinkled leaves. It is not very compact. This variety tastes much like the market dried variety.

The herb pages in seed catalogs might disillusion the prospective gardener, if that one looks at these pages. I rarely do.

A friend gave me a purple opal basil plant one year. It was interesting to grow.

basil variety Purple Opal
I’m not sure what gives this variety of basil the deepest color. Purple Opal is a smaller plant and bushy. The flavor is mildly spicy.

The local market has a greenhouse set up for another local company to display transplants in every spring. I browse the shelves simply because I like to see what is available.

basil variety Genovese
Genovese basil is said to be the best for pesto. The plant is large and a vigorous grower. The flavor is intense and spicy enough to make it hard to keep a half leaf in the mouth very long.

I raise my own seedlings or try to every spring. They get a late start due to temperature and light challenges so are never as big as those transplants. However I get to raise the varieties I want to grow instead of the standard ones available.

basil variety Cinnamon
The leaves on Cinnamon basil are not the crinkly ones of other basils. They are also a bit smaller. When I tried chewing on half a leaf, I discarded it before I really tasted it as my mouth heated up like with a spicy hot pepper or a wild spearmint leaf.

By the end of May most people in my area have put in their gardens. The past few years they’ve done this twice due to late frosts. My seedlings get a chance to catch up in the house safe from such weather vagaries.

basil variety Lemon
I expected a basil flavor from the leaf of Lemon basil I tried. It was there behind a tangy lemon flavor. The plant has a yellow tinge to it. It is larger than Siam, but not big like Genovese and is tightly bushy.

Some transplants are left behind and put on drastic sale. This year those leftovers included six varieties of basil. I succumbed to temptation.

basil variety Siam
Siam basil is a compact, decorative plant. It does have a nice basil flavor, but not as intense as the other varieties I grew this year. It is a pretty plant with green leaves and dark red stem tips.

My tomatoes are now accompanied by six varieties of basil: Mammoth or sweet basil; Purple Opal basil; Siam Basil; Cinnamon basil; Genovese basil; and Lemon basil. What I will do with such a basil variety in my kitchen, I’m not sure.

In the meantime the plants are big and healthy. They are blooming. (I know I should harvest the leaves before the plants bloom, but everything is behind this year. I will pinch them back and get them to branch out again.)

All of the varieties have a typical leaf shape, although the size varies. Their coloring varies.

Now I need six paper bags. Why? Each basil variety will go in a labeled bag, closed and put in the refrigerator to dry. This method works very well.

Cooking is important to Hazel Whitmore in Broken Promises, Old Promises and Mistaken Promises. Recipes are included in the books.