Wild Chive – Allium Schoenoprasum: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Overlooked var. Laurentianum of Wild Plants

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Wild chive usually refers to the very same chives you’d get from a seed packet for your garden or from a grocery store. The big surprise – there’s a variety native to Ontario!

Wild chive (allium schoenoprasum) is typically a rare escapee from cultivation around here, more specifically it tends to be the European version Allium schoenoprasum var. schoenoprasum. While not aggressive, it tends to hold its plot for a long while even if left untended. It’s related to our wild leeks and garlic. Unlike many of our garden herbs and vegetables, A. schoenoprasum is native to North America in the variety Allium schoenoprasum var. laurentianum.

Wild Chive
Wild Chive

There are some lookalikes as far as the flower is concerned, like red clover and knapweed. But chives scape-like hollow leaves have the scent of onion. The leaves are skinnier than wild leeks but could be mistaken for garlic, however garlic has aerial bulblets (tiny bulbs between the leaf and stem) and chives do not.

Edible Uses of Wild Chive

The mild onion-tasting chopped leaves, bulbs and immature flowers buds are all edible raw or cooked. The young, edible pinkish flowers may also be used to garnish dishes or brighten up a salad. Chives are milder and easier to digest than ramps and onions.

Like garlic, they can be grown for their “scapes”. These are the same as the chives you’d find at the grocery store. You can dry or freeze them for later use.

Rich in antioxidants and many other nutrients.

Medicinal Uses of Wild Chive

Wild chive is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Integumentary
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Antifungal and Decongestant. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes being juiced and boiled down to make a cough syrup. Same as leek or grocery bought onions, just smelling or smudging the bulbs can get your mucus membranes running to clear out your sinuses.

Alternative Uses of Rush Leeks

Chives can be used in dried flower arrangements.

The juice may repel insects. If you grow vegetables you may find it helpful planted in the borders to repel pests.

Growing Allium Schoenoprasum var. Laurentianum syn. var. Sibiricum

Chives are easy to germinate indoors or propagate by division. They make a helpful companion plant for carrots, grapes, roses, and tomatoes. Bees will visit them for the sulphur content.

You’ll be hard pressed to find them in the wild here, even though researchers did when exploring our county for Haliburton Flora. Manitoulin Island may have the largest wild native patches in Ontario. You can try looking around old farmsteads for what is likely the European variety, or even better get the native var. laurentianum from a seed company.

The native Allium schoenoprasum var. laurentianum syn. var. sibiricum really should get a boost in popularity. It’s a showy giant flower that would make a great addition to pollinator gardens and yet it’s basically an unknown. If you’re a member of Ontario Native Plant Gardening on Facebook here are some photos of our native giant chives. I hope some of you end up giving this underrated flower new life!


And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

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