A part of the Lily family of plants, the green onion has several relatives that are alike in appearance, flavor and odor. Most, including leeks, shallots and garlic, are used for cooking, valued for their pungent flavor and odor. However, chives are ornamental along with adding flavor to dishes.
Unlike green onions that produce single bulbs, shallots (Allium cepa var. Aggregatum) develop bulb clusters. The smell of shallots is far like green onions — the flavor is delicate and mild. Like green onions, shallots require moist, rich land. Varieties include Dutch shallots such as “Dutch Yellow” and “Dutch Red,” that are large shallots using coppery, orange-yellow skin. French shallots such as “Red Sun,” Ambition” and “French Red” have pinkish-brown skin and a milder taste than Dutch shallots.
Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum) look like green onions however leeks are bigger, at 6 to 10 inches long plus also a much as 2 inches in diameter. Leeks are most delicious when they are picked at approximately 1 inch in diameter. The leaves of leeks are solid and flat, while green onion leaves are round and hollow. Leeks include lots of varieties, including “King Richard,” that is harvested in autumn, or winter-harvested varieties such as “Carina” or “Saint Victor.” Leeks thrive with rich soil and regular watering.
Even though the leaves of the garlic plant (Allium sativum) look like the leaves of a green onion, the garlic bulb consists of not a single bulb but a clump of ten or more cloves within a papery, bulblike cover. Garlic is planted in rich, evenly moist ground, as dry dirt often results in distorted bulbs. Garlic contains not only standard garlic but giant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum), also called elephant garlic. Giant garlic has fist-sized bulbs and a milder taste.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are appealing plants with hollow, grasslike leaves that look like green onions. Clusters of pinkish-lavender blooms appear on top of slender, leafless stems in the summer. The delicious stems are snipped for culinary use any time during the growing season. Chives require regular water while the plant is actively growing. Chives perish in winter and regrow in spring, also in mild climates.