You cannot beat having a supply of fresh herbs right outside your kitchen door and chives are one herb which not only taste great but look fabulous and smell divine. You do not even need to have a dedicated space for growing this gorgeous herb: just plant it right into your flower border.
Chives have bright green, hollow shoots with pink-purple, pom pom flowers. They are best grown outside in a sunny spot but they will tolerate some shade. They grow to a height of around 60cm and spread to a width of 30cm once the clump thickens up. They can also be grown on a windowsill if you don’t have a garden or for a quick mini crop.
Chives are a nutrient-dense food meaning that they are low in calories but high in beneficial nutrients although you would have to eat a large quantity of chives to get any significant amount these nutrients.
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, are in the allium genus and have a mild, onion flavour so the stems are great as a garnish to simply chop into salads, coleslaw, potatoes, sandwiches or soup.
The flowers of chives can also be eaten and taste best when first opened. Use them in salads for a decorative touch or try chopping the flowers into butter for a subtle hint of flavour.
Fresh chives will keep in the fridge if wrapped in a paper towel in a resealable plastic bag for about a week. It is best to wash chives right before use otherwise they will deteriorate more quickly when damp.
You can also freeze them whole and just snip off the frozen chives and add to your recipe as needed.
To use, snip a bunch of chive leaves at the base with scissors – they will regrow. You can also cut off flower stems to encourage new leaves and to keep the flavour in the leaves but the flowers do look lovely in the borders and are a magnet for bees.
Cut back the whole clump after they finish flowering to encourage new growth and you will be rewarded with a second crop of leaves.
Chives are perennial which means that they will die back in winter and resprout again in spring.
Congested chive clumps can be dug up and separated into three smaller sections which can be replanted elsewhere. It is a good idea to do this every couple of years to rejuvenate and bring vitality and flavour back to the clump and of course, means that you get more clumps for free.
If you want to start chive seeds indoors, wait until 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost to sow so they have good new growth before being set outside.
If you want to wait to sow outdoors, wait until the soil temperature is above 15C (60F). Chive seeds can take a few weeks to germinate so do not expect overnight germination.
Chives like most herbs, need little to thrive and are very low maintenance. They are easy to grow, look pretty and are so useful in so many dishes. For a plant to plate herb, it really is worth sowing some chives in springtime for an early summer harvest.
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