Growing Chives in Your Herb Garden – Mother Earth News



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ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS TEAM


Chives are good for you! They are mildly antibiotic and contain high concentrations of vitamins A and C, along with measurable amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin and niacin.


Whether you’re gardening on several acres or growing a few herbs in a planter, you should set aside some space for growing chives. Allium schoenoprasumthe smallest and sweetest member of the onion family, was well established in Chinese cuisine as early as 3000 BC. AD, and was also popular in Egyptian and Roman dishes.

Growing chives in the herb garden

Unlike its cousin the onion, chives are not grown for their bulbs, but for their 8- to 12-inch lance-shaped hollow leaves. Chopped into small pieces, they flavor stews, stews, egg dishes, soups (they are a must for vichyssoise), potatoes (sour cream and chives are the topping for baked potatoes), salads, dressings and dips. They can also be combined with other herbs to make herb butters, green sauce, and tartar sauce.

For the chive butter, whisk two tablespoons of chopped fresh chives into a pound of room temperature butter, refrigerate, then serve on warm bread or potatoes. To make chive salt, add the herb to non-iodized salt. Remove the leaves after several weeks and use the flavored salt on meats and vegetables.

Chives are Well for you too. They are mildly antibiotic and contain high concentrations of vitamins A and C, along with measurable amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin and niacin. Herbalists have used them for centuries to tone the stomach, reduce high blood pressure and strengthen the kidneys. Chives were even used by Romanian gypsies to tell fortunes, and tufts of grass were hung from bedposts and ceilings to ward off evil spirits.

These perennials are also very pretty. Globular mauve-pink flowers appear profusely in early to late summer, making growing chives perfect for garden borders and knot gardens. However, it takes so few plants to support a family’s culinary needs that many people grow chives in containers. And if you’re growing them purely for food rather than decoration, smother the flowers before they bloom. In fact, chives will grow thicker if picked often.

You can easily start this grass from seed or buy it in small clumps from a nursery. Although chives will grow in most soils in sun to partial shade, they prefer fairly humus-rich soil with a pH between 6 and 8. Do not cut plants until their second year and keep them free of weeds (which harbor aphids). Divide clumps every three to four years in spring or fall. A few other maintenance tips include providing humidity in dry weather to prevent your chives from being attacked by aphids and, after repeated cuttings, fertilizing with fish emulsion. The plant also likes coffee grounds and does well if planted near comfrey.

Unfortunately, chives don’t dry well, but if you want them all year round, they can be frozen quickly for use in winter dishes. You can also transplant a clump into a pot in late fall, let it rest for a few months in a protected spot outdoors, then place it in front of a sunny window and water it well.

Posted May 1, 1986

Terri S. Tomasini