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Allium schoenoprasum

By Shirley Miller

Allium schoenoprasum

Chive, a hardy, herbaceous clump-forming perennial with hollow, grass-like leaves.
Chive is the smallest member of the onion family, easily grown and has many uses. The handsome plant, producing beautiful mauve blossoms in late spring, is welcome as a specimen planting for the herb bed.

How to grow:
Prepare the bed early, in the fall, if possible. Remove all weeds. Use a weedkiller for persistent weeds and grasses. Dig the soil leaving in a rough state over winter to be broken down by alternate frost/thaw.

In the spring, incorporate organic matter such as compost by digging into the soil. Contour the soil so that the bed is well drained. Feeding with manure or chemical fertilizer is not recommended at first planting. Feed established clumps occasionally with a side dressing of balanced fertilizer.

Chives, as most herbs, will flourish with little care, once established. Plant in full sun and water during dry weather. After blossoms fade, some deadheading may be necessary to keep the plant tidy. Chives leaves die back in the late fall. Leave dead foliage as protection during very cold weather.

Chives may be propagated by seed in spring or by division in early fall. Chives will thrive indoors on a sunny window sill, and can then be transplanted into the garden next spring.

Chives may be snipped at any time during the growing season. Snip on a warm dry day. As with other clump forming herbs, harvest outer leaves to encourage growth in the center of the plant. Leave 2 inches of the leaf for regrowth. Blossoms can be harvested and used in many culinary ways. (See below.)

The main methods for preserving herbs are drying and freezing. Chives do not adapt well to freezing. Other methods of preserving are steeping in oil or vinegar.

Culinary uses:
Chopped chives make a subtle addition to many dishes, such as eggs, tomatoes, and sour cream on baked potatoes. Chives make a nice garnish. Chive blossoms may be added to salads. The delicately colored chive blossoms may be infused with vinegar to make a lovely and tasty dressing or a very special gift.