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2003 MHS Herb of the Year -
Chives: An Overview

Chives - An Overview
Edible Alliums Cookbook By Carrie B. Wilkey

Download a PDF with Chive information and recipes

Botanical: Allium schoenoprasum
Family: N.O. Liliaceae

Plant: Hardy Perennial Herb

  • Makes an attractive border plant.
  • Chives are similar to a green onion, but have milder and finer leaves
  • One of the smallest and most flavorful of the Allium family, which includes onions, garlic, leeks and shallots
  • Native to Asia and Eastern Europe, by the sixteenth century chives were common plants in herb gardens throughout Europe
  • “Leaves” are hollow, long and cylindrical, growing from 6-18 inches high
  • Produces a pink to purple, edible flower in June and July
  • Garlic chives are distinguishable from Chinese chives by their flat, broader leaves and fragrant white flowers
  • Garlic chives have a delicate garlic flavor and are used extensively in Asian dishes

Varieties: Garlic and Chinese
Garlic Chives: Allium tuberosum

  • Soil and Planting Tips: Rich garden soil, average watering
  • Chives are easy to start and can last for years
  • Plant bulbs or starter clumps in light, medium-rich soil in a sunny place
  • May be started by seed
  • Cut flower stalks to the ground after blooming.
  • Thin clumps every third spring
  • Space mature plants 5-inches apart
  • Clumps may be transferred to grow in containers indoors
  • Leaves may be harvested (cut with scissors) 3-4 times in a season
  • Needs sun to partial sun
  • Wait until leaves are at least 6-inches tall before harvesting

Uses: Used for light, oniony flavor in salads, dips, sauces, vegetables, soups, fish and much more.

  • Use fresh leaves by snipping off the tops with scissors
  • Chives tend lose their color and flavor when dried
  • To freeze, wash and chop finely, then pack in ice cube trays and fill with water. When frozen, remove cubes and store in plastic bags. Defrost in strainer and use as fresh chives
  • The leaves add tasty flavors to herbal butters and vinegars
  • As with most herbs, add chives at the last moment to hot foods, since heat lessens their flavor

Health Claims

  • Good source of calcium, potassium, iron, folic acid and Vitamins A and C
  • Chives are a good flavoring choice for those on diets to restrict calories, fat or salt intake
  • Chive oil has antibacterial properties
  • Minor source of selenium

Herbal Folklore

  • Drives away diseases and evil influences and should be hung in bunches around the home
  • Said to improve digestion and reduce blood pressure (but only if eaten in large quantities)
  • Chives are good companion plants for carrots, grapes, roses and tomatoes
  • Gypsies often used chives in fortune telling
  • Ancient Romans believed chives to relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat
  • Marco Polo is credited with bringing chives to Europe from China
  • Chives, still a common herb found growing wild, had economic importance throughout Asia and many Mediterranean countries
  • Chives have been around for over 5,000 years