'This spice can replace onion or garlic in times of need as it has a similar taste profile'
Scientists of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) are hoping that chives can be used as an alternative to garlic and onion. They released a high yielding variety of this crop named Chive1 in 2017.
Dr Nur Alam Chowdhury, a senior scientist of the Spices Research Centre at BARI said: “After a lot of extensive research, we finally succeeded in developing a sustainable variant of this Chinese, Siberian, and Mongolian spice [chives].”
“This spice can replace onion or garlic in times of need as it has a similar taste profile,” he added.
He was assisted by Dr Mostaque Ahmed, Dr Alauddin Khan, and Mohammad Moniruzzaman in his research.
What makes chives the ideal crop is that it can be grown all year round. Once planted, the crops can be collected multiple times from a single plant and can be grown easily in flower pots or backyards where they can grow to 30-40cm in length.
The Lillian shaped leaves are about 23-30cm with flat, smooth edges and the bulbs can grow up to 1.5cm.
The first crop can be harvested after 65-70 days of planting and can be collected 4-5 times a year. 10-12 tons of crops can be produced per hectare.
Another benefit of chives is that the whole plant, leaves, stalk and green flower, can be used as a spice.
It even has health benefits like helping digestion and disease prevention. It also prevents different types of cancer. It is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B-1, Vitamin B-2, Niacin, Carotene, and other minerals.
Currently chives are cultivated in the hilly areas of Sylhet and Chittagong. Scientists find great potential in its cultivation in the onion producing areas of the country like Faridpur, Pabna, Rajbari, Meherpur, Kushtia, Magura, Bogra, and Lalmanirhat.
Dr Nur also said that according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data of 2017, about 17.35 metric tons of onions are produced in the country but the demand for it stands at 22 metric tons. Hence, the shortfall in domestic production is met by imports.
Now, import dependence can be reduced if chives are used as an alternative.
To combat onion shortage in the country, agricultural scientists of the country have taken steps to expand the cultivation of Chives-1 through both government and non-government organizations (NGOs).
Dr Shoilendra Nath Majumdar, chief scientist of the Spices Research Centre at BARI said: “Chives are an ideal spice to replace onion and garlic in cooking, and it is even healthier. The shortage of onions and garlic will be mitigated if chives can be widely cultivated.”
Since India’s ban on onion exports from September 29, prices of the kitchen staple soared in the country going as high as Tk250 or more per kilogram.