Chives-tough plants, delicate flavors

July 6, 2021

If you cook like a gardener or garden like a chef, this might be the plant for you. Chives are tough plants with delicate flavors, they are easy to grow and you can serve the herb raw! We love it in omelets, soups, fish, salad, and even pickled. Just walk out to the garden and clip! They are low maintenance, high yielding, and versatile to use.

People have been eating it for 5000 years. The Romans brought it to Britain, the Vietnamese put it in stir fry, they ate it in the Middle Ages and Linnaeus recorded it in 1753.

The Two Kinds Of Chive

There are two varieties, similar but with significant differences.

Lavender onion chive

Onion Chive (Allium schoenomrasum)

Also called Common Chive, it is native to Europe and North America. It has a delicate onion flavor, a beautiful flower, usually purple, and hollow leaves. You can eat the whole thing, including the small bulb.

The plant is hardy in zone 3-9

Garlic chive with white blossoms

Garlic Chive (Allium tuberosum)

This one has a pretty white blossom and sturdier flat leaves, Diced up they have a light garlic flavor. The flavor is a little stronger than Onion chive. It is also called Asian chive, or Chinese chive. Eat it raw or stir-fried or pickled.

The Plant is hardy in zones 4-9.

How To Use Them In The Kitchen

We live in an area of South Florida with very good fish. Here is a fast and delicious lemon-chive sauce. Zest and juice a lemon. Add it to melted butter, salt and pepper, and little snips of chive. Pour over the fish.

  • Make some Fines Herbes, the classic French seasoning; it is equal parts of French tarragon, parsley, chive, and chervil. Then add its fresh and subtle taste to eggs, poultry, and salads.
  • Anything to do with eggs is suitable for chives. Deviled eggs with chive, chive in egg mayonnaise, chive with omelets, you can come up with better ideas.
  • Dice some up and put it and some sour cream on a big baked potato.
  • Snip them on soup, salad, and dips. Cut them with sharp scissors rather than chopping them. They are delicate and easily damaged. This fact is particularly true of the hollow onion chive.
  • Italian fish dishes use Erba cipollina (chives) for brightness.

A Simple Idea

I found this pretty Crostini on an Italian cooking website. It is a tasty appetizer to offer some evening. The recipe includes Stracchino, a cheese that comes from the alpine areas of Italy. It is a creamy soft cheese and its name comes from the word for tired. This is apparently because the cheese came from tired cows on their way down from mountain pastures. Robiola is cheese in that family. Try your local specialty cheese shop.

If you can’t find it here are two ideas. Here is a link to a company that advertises it online. I have not tried to make a substitute for Robiola, but here is one suggestion. 1/2 cup mascarpone and 1/3 cup ricotta.

How To Grow Them

Seeds

Start the seeds indoors about 4-6 weeks before the date of the last anticipated frost. (Find Your Frost Date) Just enter your zip code. Starting from seed, it should take a year to produce a clump large enough to harvest.

Planting

Plant the new chives in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun although they will grow in less. Add compost or will grow about 12″T and wide. Plant chives after the soil temperature reaches at least 65 degrees.

Companion Plantings

Companion planting is placing plant materials together because they can enhance each other’s growth or they can protect each other from pests.

Chives are a small and pretty plant with spring green foliage and a blossom of lavender, white or pink. Include them anywhere you want, which has appropriate soil and sun conditions. To get the benefits of a companion planting group, these companions together.

Plant them together with carrots, tomatoes, mustard greens, and cabbage. Chives repel carrot flies, aphids, and cabbage worms. Use them near apple trees as they prevent apple scab.

Water And Fertilizer

Water them deeply to ensure that the soil does not dry out around the roots. Use a very light application of fertilizer because over-fertilization will negatively affect the flavor. Use liquid fertilizer at 1/2 the recommended strength every 4-6 weeks.

Maintenance

Use nutrient-rich soil or top-dress in spring with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Maintain regular water. Divide the plants every 3-4 years for the best production. If the plant looks tired over time, cut all the stalks back to about 2 inches in height. New material will grow.

Harvesting Chive

Cut chive after it reaches at least 4″ tall. Cut the number of stalks you need near the base of the plant. You can store them in water or in the freezer. Cut only the stalks you wish to use right away as chopping releases the oils with the flavor. Cutting the stalks from the plant will encourage more growth. After the plant is mature cut it back to one or two inches tall each season.

Use the Onion Chive blossom as a garnish or in salads and soups. The taste of the Garlic Chive blossom is very strong. It does look pretty as a garnish or in a vase.

Pests and Diseases

Trouble can happen, occasional powdery mildew; for example, You can see it on the base of the plant, the underside of foliage, or on the blossom. It comes from extreme wet conditions; it appears as grey or white powdery areas that appear as blemishes on the leaf. However, this is a hardy plant. So tough that European Gypsies dried it and hung the bunches to ward off evil spirits!

Companion Plants For Chive

Companion planting-is it supported by science? This is a subject that gardeners debate. In some areas, we know it is beneficial. Here are a few examples you can use in you garden.

Chive has a distinct scent. It does appear to repel several pests such as aphids, mites, carrot flies, Japanese beetles, and weevils. That is beneficial to plants that can be attacked by damaging insects. That means chive is a suitable near neighbor for parsley, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, mustard, carrots, and beets. Chive is also a good neighbor for potatoes, peppers, rhubarb, roses, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Chive attracts beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies, and beneficial wasps.

Plants that do not perform best next to chive are sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and oregano. These herbs prefer much drier conditions than chive. Chive is also not indicated as a companion to beans, asparagus, peas, and spinach.

Summary,

The chive with its lovely round flower has benefits we don’t all consider. Chive is a nutrient-dense food. It has low calories but high beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Studies have shown that diets high in flavonoids, such as those found in chive, result in lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Chive has high quantities of vitamin K which is important to bone health.

Might be worth planting! Happy gardening.