WHAT IS AN ALLIUM, YOU ASK?
Allium is the family to which scallion, onion, chives (onion and garlic), ramsons, shallots and leeks belong. They’re short, bulbous plants the yield hollow, straight leaves that give the plants a grass-like appearance. If left to flower they also produce gorgeous pom-poms of varying colors that are also fragrant and often reminiscent of bachelor buttons which makes them excellent ornamentals. In some varieties, flowers emerge from these pompoms in a chandelier-like fashion. They’re gorgeous! They’re not invasive and they thrive in small spaces so they’re good choices for gardens with a small bed, pot or edging. Allium also serve a purpose in the garden. They’re natural insect and pest repellent because of their strong garlic or onion scent.
ALLIUM IN THE JAMAICAN HOME
Edible alliums are essential to Jamaican cuisine. We love the flavors they emit. They’re unique and prized and cannot be mimicked by any other family known to mankind. Mark my words, there isn’t a Jamaican kitchen without scallions, garlic or onions at the ready. Garlic chives are especially commonly cultivated among Jamaican farmers. Our people have creative ways of incorporating garlic in dishes that will caress your taste buds and blow your mind! However, the chives we’re about to dissect is not common in Jamaica. Crow garlic chives (also known as wild onion) bear similar leaves to the garlic and purple onion chives most of us are familiar with. If you’re a plant lover with a 2-inch pot, and a tiny square box for an apartment, this plant is perfect for you!
ALLIUM VINEALE: USES
Crow garlic is very similar to allium canadense with a few exceptions. Like most allium, crow garlic plants are easy to grow, low maintenance, high yielding plants that thrive in a tight space and are easy to control and contain. They serve several purposes. The plants themselves don’t grow to be taller than about 18 inches. They are interesting to look at with tall, thin, straight, vivid green leaves and gorgeous, violet to plum-colored pompoms. These pompoms full of seeds, open up to release fragrant bright-green tendrils. The whole ensemble averages an inch in diameter. They’re beautiful ornamentals and you don’t have to worry about pests being interested in eating down your chives. Because of their strong garlic aroma, the plants are natural insect and pest repellents. You can use your crow garlic or any edible allium to border your garden to deter pests and critters. We use them to border the perimeter of our greenhouse along with allium canadense (meadow onion). To date, we haven’t had any visits from critters with sticky fingers.
CULLINARY USES OF CROW GARLIC
The last and most obvious of the noteworthy uses for this versatile plant is culinary. The flavor can make such a big difference is your soups, salads,
meats, fish, rice, pasta, sandwich, sauces, biscuit, buns, bread and other dishes. You can blend them into your sauces, especially when preparing fish and meats. Try this easy meat marinade recipe with a dash of Caribbean flavor
that we’ve shared with you. If you think that’s amazing, wait until you know how beneficial this can be for your body! Try to experiment with the flavors of all the allium in your garden by swapping some of the more common onion varieties out in your recipes.
ALLIUM: HEALTH BENEFITS
If you’re one of those expecting mothers who think you need to be chowing on oranges and pills to ensure adequate intake of folate, firstly congratulations! Secondly, allium plants are excellent sources of natural folic acid. 100g of fresh leaves is just 30 calories! That 30 calories is jam packed with many flavonoid antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals like pyridoxine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, carotenes, zeaxanthin, lutein, and so much more. Together, they work to strengthen the immune system and protect the body from different types of cancer.
ALLIUM PROTECTS YOUR HEART & BRAIN
Allicin decreases blood vessel stiffness by release of nitric oxide and brings a reduction in the total blood pressure. It inhibits platelet clot formation and has fibrinolytic action in the blood vessels which helps decrease an overall risk of coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular diseases, and stroke. It reduces the production of bad cholesterol and makes your liver very happy. They’re also found to have strong antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
ALLIUM & BONE HEALTH
Just 70 grams of allium provides the daily recommended intake of Vitamin K, which has a potential role in bone health by promoting bone formation and strengthening activity. Adequate vitamin K levels in the diet help limit neuronal damage in the brain which shows an established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Handling allium in general, may result in mild irritation to skin, mucosa, and eyes but to a greater extent with other members like an actual onion. A gas known as allyl sulfide is released while chopping or slicing them. As always, you’re encouraged to experiment with your dishes and enjoy the ride. Feel free to share your thoughts or questions below.