Chives are one of the most popular herbs for both cooks and gardeners for good reason. They are easy to grow, look beautiful in any garden, are a natural pest control, and have many uses in cooking. Onion and garlic chives are grown for both their leaves and flowers.
What are chives?
Chives are an herb with small bulbs with hollow green leaves that are part of the allium family. Their leaves and flowers are both edible and are used in many culinary dishes throughout the world.
They are common in most kitchen gardens because not only are they easy to grow, they are a natural pest deterrent. Chive plants grow in clumps and most gardeners plant them along the borders of their vegetable garden.
What do chives taste like?
Chive leaves are one of the most versatile herbs there is that makes most dishes better. It has a sweet, mild onion flavor.
French cooks would never be without fresh herbs in their kitchens, and chive leaves are one of their favorites to use. They are part of the Fines Herbes mix of herbs that the French often use in cooking.
Both the flowers and the leaves of the chive plant are edible. You don’t want to use the stem of the flower because it’s tough.
Here’s the recipe for Fines Herbes
Equal parts chopped chive leaves, parsley, chervil, and tarragon.
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History of Chives
Minced chive leaves and chive flowers have been part of recipes for over 5,000 years. The plants are native to the Orient and were used by the China in dishes.
Chive plants were introduced into European herb gardens by the 16th century.
American colonist brought the herb to America to be used for food and medicinal reasons.
Chive plants are a hardy perennial
That means your chive plants will come back year after year. It’s classified as an herb, and both the leaves and flowers provide flavor to spice up your dishes.
You should plant chive plants in spring or fall for best results. Peak seasons for production is during spring and summer.
They are best served raw, but if you do cook them, make sure it is brief, otherwise they will lose their flavor.
Chive leaves are an essential part of every good French women’s cooking arsenal.
Growing chive plants from seed indoors
Chives life cycle is approximately 80 days from seed to harvest. To achieve the 80 days of harvesting, constantly trimming the leaves will achieve this.
You can start the seeds indoors between 8-10 weeks before the last frost. Growing chive plants from seed is a slow process.
Seeds that are more than three-years-old have a low rate of growth, so make sure your seeds are fresh. It’s best to sow seeds that are a year old or less.
Before transplanting chive plants to the garden, check to see if there is good growth.
Use the Hardening method before planting your new plants outdoors. Let the plants go outside for 1-2 hours a day so they can get used to the temperature and weather.
To find out more about hardening your plants, this article from GrowVeg will help you.
Growing chive plants from seed outdoors
The soil temperature should be between 60-70 degrees. You want to have a soil PH of 6.0 to 7.0. Wait until the soil is workable in the spring.
You should make sure the soil drains well. Chive plants don’t like to to be in standing water.
Add compost to the soil before planting the seeds.
The seeds can take up to 14 days to germinate. Because they are a slow-growing herb, try to keep the area weed-free, so the starts don’t get choked out.
Once the chive flowers have bloomed (available in late April through June), make sure you remove them. If you don’t, the seeds will spread more chives throughout your garden.
Removing the flowers will also help stimulate leaf growth.
Chive flowers are edible, and you can use your flowers to beautify your salads, and you can also separate the flowers and use them as a garnish.
Height and spread of chive plant
Plants grow 12 to 24 inches tall. Regular chive plants grow to about 12″ tall, garlic chive plants can grow up to 24″ tall. They spread to a foot across.
Chives have insecticidal and anti fungal properties that naturally ward off disease and pests.
Roses love chive plants because they help prevent black spot. You can also put them under apple trees to ward off apple scab.
Avoid growing them near carrots and tomatoes.
Growing chives in pots indoors
You want to start with a well-draining potting mix and in a pot that is at least 6 inches wide.
If you use a large pot, make sure the chives are at least six inches apart.
Chive plants like to be in a sunny location. Make sure they receive at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Water plants after planting.
If you dig up one of your chive plants to bring indoors for winter harvesting, leave the chive plant in a container outside until the tops die back and the roots freeze. A dormant period is need before your chive plant will shoot out new leaves.
Place the container in a sunny location and the plants will sprout in a few weeks.
How to transplant chive plants
Water the chive plants you want to transplant a few hours before moving them to make digging them up and dividing them easier.
Trim them to about 4″ tall.
In the new space that you’ll be transplanting them to, add compost to the hole you’ve dug.
Dig up the chives and divide the roots with your hands.
Place each plant in its new hole and water. You’ll want to water your chive plants regularly because their roots are near the surface and can dry out easily.
How to divide chive plants
Every 2 to 3 years in the spring or fall, divide your chives by hand. You can place the plants in another part of your garden.
If you divide your chives regularly, they will be more productive.
For best results on the years that you divide the plants, let them grow for a few weeks before you harvest.
How to harvest chive leaves
I harvest my herbs in the morning after the dew has dried on the leaves. Make sure you plants are at least six inches tall before harvesting.
Cutting your chives will ensure a continuous harvest. Pulling them out will not.
You want to cut the herb at least 2 inches above the ground with something sharp like scissors. Start from the outside and work your way to the inside.
Please make sure to leave some leaves on each plant for best results.
How to Preserve Chives
How to air dry chive leaves
You will want to clean your chive leaves after cutting them. Remove debris and blemished leaves.
Pat them dry with a towel.
Tie a string around the bundle of chives and hang upside down in a dry, cool location.
I usually tie a brown paper bag around the bundle before hanging the herb to make sure nothing falls on the floor, and it prevents dust from getting on them.
You will want to cut small holes in the bags to allow air to flow through them.
Crumble the chive pieces once they are dry, and store in an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place like your food cabinet.
How to dry chive leaves in a dehydrator
You will want to clean your chive leaves after cutting them. Remove debris and blemished leaves.
Pat them dry with a towel. Cut the chive leaves into pieces and spread out on the tray of the dehydrator. Here’s the dehydrator I love from Amazon.
Please Note: Chives lose a lot of their flavor when you dry them – the best way to preserve them is to freeze them.
How to freeze chives
Cut up the leaves and place on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight. Then place in a freezer bag or bowl for future use.
Other ways to preserve chive leaves
Beautiful bottles of chive vinegar with both the leaves and blossoms, have been made since the colonial days. They can also be added to your favorite oil for flavor.
Adding chopped chives to butter is another way to preserve the harvest. You can use your compound butter for meats and seafood, potato dishes, and other vegetable dishes.
Reasons Why You Should Grow Chive Plants
Growing chive plants help you save money
Before I started growing my own chive leaves, there wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t buy fresh herbs from the grocery store and that can get expensive.
Chive plants are the gift that continues to give, year after year for a small initial investment.
Making your dishes beautiful is easier with a garnish of chopped chive leaves
Add beauty to any dish with the simple addition of chives. Whether you use their beautiful flowers or the vibrant green leaves, it turns up the “wow” factor to homecoming.
Chive plants attract beneficial insects
Butterflies and bees are both attracted to chive plants. They help pollinate our gardens.
Chives make a great gift idea
Giving a pot of chives as a hostess gift or birthday gift is a thoughtful present everyone will love. You can print up instructions on how to care for the plant and even include a recipe or two.
You can also make your own seed packets and give away chive seeds all year long.
Add beauty to your garden with chive plants
Chive plants are not only edible, but they are also beautiful too! I like to disperse the plants throughout my garden for their beauty and pest control properties.
Nutrition of chives
Vitamin A, C, and K, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and potassium are just a few of the vitamins and minerals this herb has.
Chive plants are easy to grow
Even a beginning gardener can successfully grow them.
Chive plants make good ground cover
Because chive plants “bunch” together, they make the perfect plant to add to a landscape where you need color.
Makes tummies happy
Chives help with digestion and help prevent bad breath. What’s not to love?
What’s the difference between chives and green onions?
Are chives and green onions the same thing? No, they aren’t. Chives are an herb, and scallions are part of the onion family.
Can you replace chives for green onions?
You can replace minced chive leaves for green onions in recipes.
Onion Chives vs Garlic Chives
They are part of the same family, but onion chives have the flavor of onion, and garlic chives have more of a garlic flavor.
Garlic chive plants (also known as Chinese chives), have a more pronounced flavor than onion chives, which has a much more delicate taste.
Onion chive plants have round leaves with a hole down the center and garlic chive plants have a flat leaf which is longer in length than onion chive leaves.
Wild chives are closely related to cultivated chives, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Compared to cultivated chives, wild chives are a little thicker and can reach a height of 20 inches.
Just like their cultivated counterparts, their green tops are what’s eaten along with the flowers.
Chives can be found throughout the United States and Canada along the banks of streams and rivers.
How to use chives in your recipes
Irma Goodrich Mazza (author of Herbs for the Kitchen 1939) said that chive leaves are the perfect addition to recipes because, “they never fight with their associates.”
They have more flavor when eaten raw. Chive leaves lose their potency when cooked, dried, or dehydrated.
1. Chive leaves and flowers in salads
Chives are a perfect addition to your salads. You can use the purple flowers to turn your salad into a work-of-art, or chop up the chive leaves as a delicious topping.
2. Use chives as garnish
Chive leaves are a fun way to food even more beautiful than it already is. They are so versatile to use, whether it’s just a sprinkle of chopped leaves for a garnish, or as a bed that food can lay on, or I’ve even seen it used as “grass” in a small vase.
You can also use chive leaves to “bundle” small food together by tying the leaves around the food item.
3. Top potatoes with chives
As far as I’m concerned, a baked potato isn’t a baked potato unless it has butter, cheese, sour cream and topped with chopped chive leaves. I’m sure you think so too!
Whether you top baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, or potato salad with chives, the vibrant green color pops against the white color of the potatoes.
Here’s a recipe I found with a good rating on the Food Network for chive and garlic mashed potatoes.
4. Top soups with minced chive leaves
Minced chive leaves add texture and flavor to soups or stews if added before serving. Add a dollop of sour cream, pesto, or and then top with minced chive leaves for a beautiful presentation.
5. Chives pair well with eggs
Eggs and chives compliment each other. Whether you add them to eggs benedict, omelets, scrambled eggs or quiche, you’ve turned a staple meal into something more.
6. Chive cream cheese
Once I tasted chive cream cheese on my bagel, there was no going back to plain cream cheese. You can also mix it with other soft cheese to make your own delicious topping for crostini or bagels.
7. Top pasta with minced herbs
Who doesn’t love pasta? I know I do. Adding fresh herbs to your pasta dishes will give beautiful color to your plates.
8. Part of your baked goods
Adding chives to bread, rolls and savory scones are just some of the ideas to use. I have a bakery near where I live that is run by a French pastry chef.
I have to pace myself for visits because I’m in love with their cheddar, bacon, and chive scones. They are seriously to-die-for.
Bon Appetit has a recipe for pull-apart sour cream and chives rolls. You can find that recipe here.
9. Chive salad dressing
Making your own salad dressing with this herb is the perfect way to dress your salad and add flavor at the same time.
Did you know that San Francisco’s Palace Hotel created the Green Goddess salad dressing in the early 1920’s that starred this amazing herb?
Fish goes well with minced chive leaves as well. Whether you add them as an accent or use it as a starring ingredient with your favorite seafood, its sure to help make your recipe into a winner.
11. Top stir fry dishes
Who doesn’t love good stir fry? Chives and sesame seeds are two of my favorite things to top them with.
Here are some herbal cookbooks that might interest you on Amazon
Herbs for Flavor, Health, and Natural Beauty – beauty and healing secrets in this cookbook with herb-inspired dishes.
Wild Mocktails and Healthy Cocktails: Homegrown and Foraged Low-Sugar Recipes from the Midnight Apothecary.
I found this gorgeous cookbook on creating your own herbal cocktails on Amazon.
Now that you know how easy to grow chive plants are, it’s time to think about adding them to your garden.
For inspiration, here’s an Enchanting Herb Farm in Michigan to stroll through.
We’ve reached the end of How to Grow Chive Plants. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Let me know in the comments below if you have your own herb garden and what your favorite plants are.
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