Chives...kids seem to love them. Maybe because it's like eating grass except it tastes better. I'm not sure what it is, but I know our boys liked them and my seven year old nephew loves them too. It's the one of the herbs you can eat right away like a food, unlike some of the stronger flavored herbs. After eating them outside, I would send the boys over to the parsley patch and have them eat a few leaves to help kill the onion odor. I called it the "parsley chaser."
And if you enjoy onions; you'll really like chives. These hollow tubes of onion-ness are sure to please the gourmet in all of us. Here are a few reasons why you'll want to include them in your herbal garden...
1. Chives are Ridiculously Easy to Grow.
I personally think this is always a great reason to grow something. If it's easy and grows well, it makes us look like a garden genius (which is always good!) Seriously, it is easy to grow and virtually maintenance-free. It's equally easy to grow by seed or by division. I've done both. If you don't dead-head the flowers, you'll have lots of chive seeds and new plants next year. When you do plant them, it's good to give them some space to spread out because they will. Not obnoxiously, but will reliably spread over time.
Buy seeds at the store or online. Find the plants at a nursery, or better yet from a friend. Plant the herbs or sow the seeds in a sunny location or part shade (although I have some in quite a bit of shade and they still do well) and water when needed. You can also start the seeds indoors earlier if you want. Chives grow to about 12 inches in height and you will want to think about dividing them every 3-4 years to prevent any root disease. I have to be honest in saying I have never divided one patch and my container plant I only transplanted twice and haven't had any problems....these little guys are hardy.
2. They Make Excellent Container Plants.
I have a large pot of chives right outside my side door. What makes this great is that they are a few steps away when I'm cooking. I don't have to weed them, feed them, or baby them. They are perfectly happy in their little home. I started with a medium sized garden pot, probably a 12 inch and moved up to the next size (transplanted) some years later when I could tell they were very pot bound.
When you want to harvest them, just grab a handful of them and cut them close to the roots. I leave about a half inch to an inch behind. They will quickly regrow in no time. In fact, it's reinvigorates them when they are harvested so don't be shy about using them...they like it.
3. They Grow Beautiful Flowers.
Even if you don't like onions or chives, they are so worth growing for the purple flowers in spring. I have a large stand of them in my front yard and I absolutely love them. The bees love them too...another eco-bonus for your landscape. As a matter of fact, there are different alliums which are grown entirely for their flower. I know because I've bought them over the years. Having an edible landscape/flower garden is a win-win idea. Let these flowers dry on the plant to collect the small black seeds. They are small but easily recognizable. You can use these seeds to start new plants indoors over the fall. Chives need a dormancy period so it's best to grow new plants for winter as your summer grown plants will need the winter to rest.
I love to use the flowers in salads and as garnishes by pulling apart the individual florets. You can also make Chive Blossom Vinegar with them and use the vinegar for salad dressings and marinades.
Chives also contain more Vitamin A than any other allium relative."100 g of fresh leaves contain 4353 IU of vitamin-A or 145% of daily recommended levels." 1
" In addition, the green leaves contain other flavonoid-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, and lutein. Together, these compounds offer the human body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers." 2
These little strands of green goodness really pack a punch when it comes to flavor AND health benefits. Not too shabby for this modest and easy to grow perennial herb you're sure to enjoy.
How do you use Chives?
Use the leaves of this plant by harvesting and chopping them into small pieces. I use chives to top every meal I make including soups and stews. They lose their flavor with cooking so it's best to use them fresh at all times. They also don't dry well. I've found the best way to preserve them is by making them into an herb butter. All you need is a stick of softened butter and chopped chives. Add as many or as little as you like. Stir to combine well and shape into a roll on a piece of waxed paper, roll to close tightly, wrap in plastic and freeze in an airtight container. When using, let the log thaw gently and cut into little coins to serve. Yum...delicious!
That's all folks. Chives...an herbal garden hero. Blessings!
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