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Herb Profile: Chives

All About Chives

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Herb Profile: Chives Photo © PDPhoto.org

Overview:

Chives are a clumping herb. Clumping refers to the way that chives seem to grow tightly together, instead of spreading out individually. This makes them wonderful for smaller spaces, and for gardeners that like a more controlled look to their garden beds. 

Chives offer a delicate onion taste and are perfect for those who enjoy a light flavor unlike the bite that onions sometimes provide when used raw. Chives are easy to grow and add a lovely ornamental quality to your gardens. The flowers are showy and prolific.

Latin Name:

Allium schoenoprasum

Common Name:

Chives

USDA Hardiness Zone:

Perennial, must be split every few years for best production. Full sun, moist soil

Exposure:

Full sun, moist soil

Harvest:

Snip leaves at any stage, four to six inches is optimal. When leaves turn yellow, pick them out and harvest more vigorously to keep this at bay. Flowers are edible and delicious in salads as an attractive, edible garnish.

Uses:

Chives are easy to grow. They require full sun and will benefit from rich, moist soils. Keeping your chive plant snipped back will cut down on the dried, yellow stems from overtaking the entire clump. These are simply the chive leaves that have finished their growing cycle. Cutting them back will create a new batch of bright green leaves. If you continue to cut the blossom heads from your chive plant, the flowers will keep coming and you will have a special ingredient for herb vinegar. Chives need to be divided every two to three years. Dig up the entire clump of chives in early spring, chop it into two or three pieces with a shovel and replant each one separately. This ensures a fresh start for more chives. Chives that have been divided in this manner, make great presents to gift to your neighbors, as well as early farmer market seasonal items when nothing much is growing. 

Chives produce abundant leaves. You will have plenty to use all season and store. To store them for winter use, you must not dry them. The taste fades rapidly. The proper way to keep chives tasting fresh all year long is to freeze them whole. I have frozen them in long stems and snipped them into the foods as needed or you can snip them before freezing in a freezer proof bag.

Chives also grow very well on a windowsill. If you would like to try growing herbs inside and do not think you have enough light, try chives at first. They will grow almost anywhere as long as they don't get too dry. Chives make a great first time garden herb for your youngest helpers too. They grow quickly and keep coming back all season. 

 

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