Our Plant of the Week – Chives
We are all familiar with chives, especially those of us who cook. A multitude of recipes call for the addition of chives. We typically reach into the cabinet and grab the little jar with the red top and sprinkle a few of the dried green herb into the mixing bowl and go on about our cooking.
As gardeners, we may even step out to our herb garden and cut a few leaves from the chives growing there and use them fresh in our cooking. But how much do you know about this little plant?
Chives Allium scoenoprasum, also known as onion chives, and allium tuberosum, garlic chives, are the two most well-known varieties in both cooking and gardening. Chives are in the Family Liliaceae and closely related to onions, leeks, scallions, and garlic.
Chives are perennials that will do well in full sun to partial shade. They typically grow to a height of 12 to 18 inches and will spread 6 to 12 inches in diameter. If allowed to bloom, chives will produce pink, purple, or white flowers depending on the variety.
Cultivating and Planting
Start seeds indoors anytime. Seeds or root divisions of existing plants can be planted in the fall or early spring. Transplants started from seeds indoors should be planted in the spring. You can tell the variety you have by examining the leaves. Garlic Chives have flat leaves. Onion chives have hollow round leaves. Clumps should be left to mature for 4 or 5 years before dividing. Chives usually don’t have many problems. There may be an occasional slug or snail damage. One problem can be the tendency of chives to spread if they are allowed to go to seed. They can be considered invasive.
Harvest and Storage
Cut and use your chives fresh whenever possible. Pinch the leaves off at the base to keep unsightly brown stubs from showing on your plants, especially if they are used as ornamentals in borders or other landscape plantings. When preparing your chives for use, cut them with scissors instead of grinding or chopping to preserve the flavor and nutritional value. Chives are best used fresh and uncooked. Cooking destroys the Vitamin C content and can lead to digestive problems.
Use chives in soups salads and as a seasoning in a variety of foods. The flowers can be cut and used for culinary purposes as well. Fresh chives on a loaded baked potato are like sprinkles on ice cream. The flowers are often used to create a salad vinegarette that turns a rosy red.
Chives have diuretic properties and some mild anti-bacterial properties. They are high in vitamin C when used fresh.
Other Uses for our Plant of the Week – Chives
Chives make wonderful landscape plants. They are easy to grow and make good borders for walkways or paths, do well in containers, and make good companion plants for several garden vegetables. The flowers are often dried to be used in wreaths and dried arrangements.
Chives are an excellent addition to your landscape as you transition to an edible landscape design. They can add splashes of color and amazing smells to your landscape. They make good additions to sensory gardens because of the texture of the leaves, the difference in the leaves, and the different smells that can be produced simply by brushing the leaves with a hand.
Chives should have a place in your landscape, your garden, and your kitchen.
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