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Society Garlic

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

One of the first herbs I planted years ago in my north Texas garden was society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). The reason I planted this herb as soon as I could is that it doesn’t like to be moved often and propagates slowly. My original 6-inch pot of society garlic reached about two square feet in eight years and is now, after twelve years, ready to be divided.

This is a slow growing clumping member of the garlic family. The thin strap-like leaves rise from a central core to about 12-18 inches. Society garlic produces lilac to sky blue star-shaped flowers in a loose cluster on a 2-foot stalk. These nodding stalks will grace the clump of society garlic throughout the summer.

Although not a true garlic, society garlic is edible. It somewhat resembles green onions but the taste is more of a pleasant garlic flavor. The leaves can be used to flavor food as one would use garlic chives. Just be conservative in its use as its garlic flavor is definitely stronger than garlic chives.

Plant society garlic where it will receive regular water. This herb is listed as hardy in full sun but my clump has done best in filtered shade. In dry parts of Texas, plant your society garlic where it will get some shade.

So why is it called society garlic? Well, legend has it that those in high society who wanted the garlic flavor but not the garlic breath could use this herb instead of the garlic bulb. Whether or not this works, I’ll let you be the judge.