There are over 500 types of Allium, some edible, some strictly ornamental, with many being both edible and showy. They all are good in the kitchen or in the garden.
Most of Allium have a similar look: erect, leafless stems that end in a pompon of tightly clustered tiny flowers. The sizes differ. The giant Allium grows to over five feet tall, producing a spectacular bright lilac flower globe, whereas the chive is a miniature version which rarely grows to over one foot tall. Another feature which sets chives allium schoenoprasum apart is that its leaves, rather than being flat, are hollow tapered tubes ending in a sharp point.
The common link among all of the Allium plants is their "oniony" taste.
Science has proved that the sulfur compounds, which are found in allium, are actually beneficial for the blood circulation, and for the respiratory and digestive systems. Garlic is the highest in sulfur among the family, and thus it is the most potent. Chives allium schoenoprasum also have high levels of vitamin C and A, but unlike the garlic, they contain small amounts of the sulfu, and so rarely are they mentioned as having medicinal properties. Their value is truly in the kitchen and the garden. Chopped leaves can be used with many kind of food and in many herb mixtures, they are excellent in salads, omelets, stews, and soups.
Here are some species of the Allium Family:
Garlic - Allium sativum. Garlic is grown vegetatively from individual cloves. After harvest, they can be stored in the same way as onions. It is usually planted in autumn and mulched for the winter. It is ready to harvest when the plant's top goes yellow and bends over.
Garlic Chives - Allium tuberosum. Garlic chives are also called Chinese chives and are like miniature leeks that taste of garlic. The leaves are a bit larger and flatter, the flowers are white. They do not cross with any other allium species.
Leek - Allium ampeloprasum. Leeks tolerate freezing temperatures and are more resistant to diseases than onions. Leeks will not cross with any other allium species. Unlike onions the seeds are more tightly encased in their seedpods.
Onion - Allium cepa. Onions belong to the genus Allium and species Cepa, which includes several groups: the Aggregatum group and the Cepa Group.
Tree Onion - Allium cepa proliferum. Some of the top setting onions (Allium cepa, Proliferum Group) produce fertile flowers which can contaminate nearby seed-producing onions.
Chives Allium schoenoprasum look like tiny clumps of onions and may grow for years. The small, bulbous, onion-like plants grow in clumps; leaves are slender, tubular and hollow, about 6 inches long. They produce very attractive violet-colored flowers.
Chives have many names:
A. schoenoprasum var. alpinum,
The history of the chives herbs is old enough.
The ancient Chinese are documented to be the first to use chives as long ago as 3000 years B.C. and Marco Polo is credited with bringing chives to Europe from China.
The Gypsies have used chives in their fortune telling rituals.
It was believed and still that you should hang bunches of dried chives around your house toward off disease and evil.
The Romans believed chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat. They believed that eating chives would increase blood pressure and acted as a diuretic. Most sources tend not to agree with these claims.
And the Romans brought chives to Europe where they now grow wild. In fact, now chives grow wild across most of the Northern Hemisphere.