A Garlic for Subtropical and Tropical Climates

Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) is the perfect way to grow garlic flavours in warm climates.

I love garlic flavours, but try as I might, I just can’t get garlic to grow in my subtropical climate zone. The solution? Society Garlic or Tulbaghia violacea!

This strappy leaved plant with lovely purple flowers will grow as an annual in cooler climates or a perennial in warm climates. In my garden, I have a number of plants which are a few years old. Every Spring and Summer they consistently produce lovely star-shaped purple flowers that smell like onions.

The flowers and the leaves can be eaten raw in salads. The leaves can be cooked and added to soups and other dishes for a flavour, that to my tastebuds, is somewhere between garlic and onions.

It has a host of medicinal uses too. According to some studies, it reduces pressure in arteries and blood pressure. Historically it has been used to treat the following ailments in its native African environment:

  • sinus headaches
  • asthma
  • rheumatic pain
  • coughs
  • colds
  • high blood pressure
  • intestinal worms
  • digestive problems

Society garlic is relatively drought hardy, but doesn’t like frost, unless it’s a “Jane Frost”, haha!

There are a number of cultivars from a lovely lush green to various variegated forms. My favourite is the one in the graphic above with silver stripes on the foliage. I grow them in my permaculture garden, but they are also great for garden edging, rockeries and anywhere that there is a space that needs to be filled.

In good conditions they will spread via a tuber to fill spaces and give you more to harvest!

If your climate is too warm for garlic, you can enjoy this all year! I love to add one or two flowers to salads to add a garlicky zing!

This article was first published in Tea with Mother Nature on January 5th 2022.

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