How to Grow Chives

Chives are part of those aromatic herbs which enrich the taste of dishes.

Chives in spring

Chives, whose scientific name is Allium schoenoprasum, is a rustic perennial plant of easy cultivation.

It has tiny leaves, hollow and thin, needle-shaped, which form a head and straight stems, filiform and tall from 20 to 40 cm (8 to 12 inches), covered by a basal leaf and, during flowering, ending with an umbrella of purple or greenish flowers, rarely white.

The inflorescence, globular or hemispherical, is taller than the top of the leaves.

This species has a very wide geographical diffusion which includes Europe, most of Asia, Japan and boreal America.

It was probably already known to ancient people but, with certainty, it has been cultivated in Europe since the sixteenth century.

Chives grow spontaneously in banks and humid meadows of many of our localities, however they are most profitable for horticultural purposes if they are cultivated in fertile and light soils.

Cultivation of chives

The preferred soil for this plant, in fact, is light, well drained, and moderately fertile; in this type of soil it is easier for the slender bulbs to grow.

The ideal position is in full sun or light shade.

The plant does not fear the rigors of winter: the leaves perish and die, but the bulbs underground continue to live without problems, ready to vegetate again at the beginning of spring.

Cultivation can be done from seed or it is possible to buy seedlings to be planted directly.

The important thing is to find, for this aromatic plant, a position which will favor its optimal growth and where it can grow undisturbed during the years.

Therefore the soil must be prepared with a certain care by proceeding with a deep digging, preferably by using a back saver spade, which can be done in the autumn preceding the seeding and to which it should be added a modest quantity of mature manure.

It is also important that the soil is free from weeds which could easily suffocate this slender plant and/or get mixed to the tubular leaves making it more difficult to clean.

It is sown in seedbed or in open field, in spring, as soon as the temperature allows it.

After sowing, it is important to keep the soil humid in order to favor germination. Thin out so that seedlings are spaced 15 centimeters from each other.

If we have bought a potted plant, planting will be even easier: leave the clumps of the plant above ground exactly as you found them in the pot and once transplanted do not compress the soil with your hands to avoid damaging the plant.

A sprinkling of water will be enough to make the soil stick and compact around the tuft.

Multiplication

The multiplication is done by division of the thick tufts which gather many small bulbs.

For this purpose, every 3-4 years, we uproot the plant from the ground and using a sharp knife we divide the tuft in two or more parts and we proceed to plant each of them.

It is a very simple and practical method which will give life to many autonomous plants.

Harvesting

chives grows after cuttingChives are harvested by cutting at the level of the ground, with a sharp knife, the green tubular leaves resembling blades of grass.

The cut, even frequent, does not damage the plant but, on the contrary, stimulates its growth.

Therefore cutting should be done regardless of the fact we need the leaves because this stimulates the growth of new young and scented leaves.

It should also be remembered to remove flowers as soon as they appear.

Conservation

Although the leaves of this plant can be frozen as well as dried, it should be said that both freezing and drying make the leaves lose, unfortunately, many of their aromatic characteristics.

Leaves lose their color during the drying process and that is why it is always better to have a winter supply by planting a tuft of chives in a pot to be kept inside, in a greenhouse or directly behind the kitchen window.

The Best Way to Use Chives

cooking chives

In cooking chives are often used raw, by finely chopping the leaves.

As it is a herbaceous plant, the use of it in cooking is pretty similar to the one of china grass, although the two plants have very different tastes.

Chives are used to flavor many dishes with a delicate aroma of onion.

It can be added to eggs in order to make excellent omelets, or sprinkled on salads, on cheeses, in sandwiches, in soups, in stews, in sauces and in every dish where a delicate aroma of onion is desired.