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Chives

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Chives in a herb garden––the chives are growing front center
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a hardy perennial plant grown from bulbs. While chives are a member of the onion family, they are treated as a herb. Chives are native to Northern Europe and also are found growing wild in the temperate regions of North America. They have been cultivated for culinary purposes since the sixteenth century.

Chives are found growing in clumps and their leaves appear like thick grass. Most leaves are a bright dark green in colour. If left to bloom, chives will produce pretty round mauve or pink flower heads, which are also edible.

Growing chives[edit]

  1. Purchase or collect seeds. Chives are easily grown from seed. They can also be divided and grown, either in autumn or spring. Planting by seed should be done in spring or early summer.
  2. Select a good spot. Chives like moist, well-drained soil but can tolerate wetter conditions than other members of the Allium family. Chives like partial shade to full sun.
    • Chives can also be grown in containers and on the kitchen window sill.
  3. Plant in drills 1cm (1/2 inch) deep. Keep seed clumps 25-30cm (10-12 inches) apart.
  4. Keep moist. Well watered chives tend to grow best.
  5. Pinch off the flowers if you want a continuous source of fresh leaves.
  6. Add a little organic fertiliser every few months.
  7. Expect the plants to die down in winter.

Dividing chives[edit]

Chives tend to spread rapidly. To avoid them growing too closely together and getting squashed, they need to be divided every two to three years.

Preserving chives[edit]

Basket of chive flowers
Chives do not tend to dry well (their delicate flavour is soon lost). However, they can be frozen. They are best frozen inside ice cubes for later use.

Culinary uses of chives[edit]

Both chive leaves and chive flowers are using in cuisine. They give a slight onion flavour to the dish. Be aware that an entire plant can easily be used in a single dish, so grow plenty! Some examples of uses include:

  • Added to salads as garnish and flavour. (Pick just before using.)
  • Add to souffles, scrambled eggs and other egg dishes.
  • Sprinkle over soups.
  • Sprinkle over cooked new potatoes.
  • Blend with butters and cheeses.
  • Falafel chive muffins
    Flavour muffins or scones with chives.

Be generous with the amount added, with the exception of very delicately flavoured dishes. If using in cooking, larger amounts will be needed than using neat on salads and as a garnish.

Note that chives tend to be easier to cut with kitchen scissors (shears) than with a knife.

Medicinal use of chives[edit]

Chives are high in vitamin C and iron. This makes them a very nutritious food.

Chives can help stimulate the appetite and ease digestion.