Cooking chives | Growing chives | Site and soil | Sowing | Transplanting | Location | Harvesting | Trimming | Troubles
Chives are grown as flavouring, as a herb, not as a vegetable in their own right. The plant consists of slender leaves and stem and a narrow bulbous root. Allium schoenprasum is a perennial species, unlike the commonly grown leeks and onions to which it is related, being a member of the allium or onion family. In winter the top of the plants withers away but soon begins to re-emerge in late winter and early spring. Sometimes the tips of the emerging new leaves gets touched with frost. Not long after the leaves have emerged the flowers are produced and these are decorative enough to merit growing in a flower bed or border, at the front because this is a small plant. The purple pink flowers are pretty and can be used as garnish and in salads. Native to mountainous regions across Europe and Asia, it is thought that chives have been used as a flavouring from ancient times.
The mild onion flavour of chives is ideal for imparting a touch of flavour without overpowering light dishes, such as salads, soups and omelettes. It is usually added late in the cooking and it is used fresh in salads and as garnish. Like other members of the onion family, chives contain useful amounts of potassium, and flavonoids and saponins with valuable anti-oxidant and anti-cholesterol activity.
Site and soil
Chives need full sunshine and reasonably fertile, well-drained soil that does not dry out in summer. They suffer badly in drought and become prone to disease.
Chives are extremely easy to grow from seeds and often self-sow in gardens. Sow the seed in spring or summer in a seed bed or just in a patch of ground to grow on.
The plants are never treated as single plants, more a clump of plants is planted out. Existing clumps can be lifted and divided in spring, or seed-sown plants can be lifted and moved to their final positions.
Chives are decorative enough to use in a flower bed or border, and they have been used as decorative edging to beds in a vegetable garden or potager.
Picking chives is simple, just pull away a bunch of leaves of snip them off - this can be done at any time there are leaves of sufficient length but usually before flowering.
Cut away the flower heads of chives when finished to prevent self-sowing - the cutting back will encourage some more leaf growth.
Chives are generally trouble-free, but they sometimes get attacked by greenflies and rust disease is quite common, the same disease as attacks leeks, though perhaps a different strain. It can cause the chives to collapse and if it occurs remove all the plant top and clear debris.