Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)
Jaimie Sweetman is Head Gardener of the Edible Forest located on the Yarra Valley Estate in Dixons Creek. Tours of the Edible Forest, often led by Jaimie, take place on Fridays and Saturdays – read more and book your place on a future tour.
Working at the Edible Forest has introduced me to many different edible and medicinal plants. One of these that is not rare, in fact extremely common yet not typically recognised as an edible plant, is society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea).
Society garlic is a clumping perennial found in many Melbourne gardens. It is really easy to grow and does not require much water. Flowering for around 8 months of the year, with a lull of only a couple of months though winter, it makes for an excellent savoury edible flower. The flowers have a garlic flavour and are slightly sweeter than the leaves, which are also edible and can be used as a chive substitute all year round.
I use the flowers to top salads and give it that extra touch and flavour. They come in pinks, purples and white varieties, with both dwarf and variegated varieties available.
Originally named society garlic because the women of society could enjoy eating it without getting garlic breath, it is not actually in the garlic family at all so those intolerant to alliums (garlic, onions, chives etc) can still enjoy the garlic flavour of the flowers and use the leaves in cooking.
Society garlic grows fine in pots and can handle full sun so it is a great edible to add to a balcony if apartment living. It also looks good when mass planted to put on a show and add colour to the garden.
So, next time in your local nursery, consider adding society garlic to your plant collection.