Chives: How to Grow Chives
For a person like me, who watches Gordon Ramsey cooking videos on social media a lot, and flicks the channel to MasterChef, it is pretty normal to come across these herbs and spices that sound so foreign in our kitchen.
Chive, for example, is one of the herbs that is frequently used to add a distinct taste, making your normal dish extra special.
You can easily grow this herb in your garden and add it to your cooking, giving your amateur kitchen skill an upgrade.
Chives belong to the genus Allium, which makes them a relative to culinary classics like garlic, onions, scallions and leeks. It is a widely used ingredient for soups, dressings, garnish, and potato dishes. Its medicinal properties are also applauded around the globe.
Chives are versatile and easy growing perennial herbs. Dense hearty clumps grow from a bulb underground and produce thin and hollow edible leaves, and lavender flowers.
Facts About Chives
Chives are native to Europe, Asia and North America. Some people believe it originated from Chinese soil and has been widely used in the region. However, the chives found in China are different from the chives used in the West.
Europe has been cultivating chives since the Middle Ages. There are records that it had already been used 5,000 years ago.
Chives is the best plant to start with your herb garden. It is easy to grow and requires little maintenance. It tolerates cold well, likes full sun and not very particular in any kind of soil.
Planting season usually takes place in early or late spring when the weather is pretty cool.
Since chives are very versatile and can grow easily, they can overtake and invade your garden.
Mature chives can reach up to 30 to 50 cm tall.
Their spread can reach 30 cm wide.
Chives are fast growers. When given the right conditions, chives can reach their mature size in a span of six to nine months.
Chives’ leaves are pretty identical to onions. If you are not familiar with it that much, you might mistake it for the other. Nothing to be embarrassed about though. They are relatives so they must look similar.
Chives have long, pencil-like, thin leaves that have a hollow center and are bright green in color. It typically resembles a straw.
The leaves can grow up to 50cm tall and 3mm in diameter. The leaves may appear stiff but have a soft texture.
Chives produce star-shaped lavender to pink flowers. Each flower is two cm. wide and has six petals.
A clump of chives blooms 10 to 2 flowers together.
Chives blossom from April to June.
Chives have slender conical bulbs. It usually grows three cm long and one cm broad.
The bulbs grow in dense clusters from the roots.
Types of Chives
The genus Alliums has at least 500 species of plant, but the best and most popular are the common chives, garlic chives, Siberian chives and the giant Siberian chives.
Allium schoenoprasum or the common chives (it is also known as the onion or wild chives) is frequently grown as an herb.
Usually, common chives come in a clump of a small, slender bulb that produces thin, hollow tubed leaves in blue-green color at the center of the plant.
The foliage can grow up to 12 inches and the spread can reach 18 inches. It blooms clusters of lavender to rose-purple flowers from late spring to early summer.
The flowers can reach more than 12 inches tall.
The leaves have onion-like flavor and scent.
Common chives require regular care. It is also considered as invasive plant; however, it attracts butterflies and deer tolerant.
Allium tuberosum or the Garlic chive (also popular as Chinese chive, Oriental garlic and Asian chive) is frequently used in Asian dishes.
Garlic chives have flat grass foliage that originates from the crown of the plant. The leaves are flatter and greener than common variants.
These chives can reach 16 inches tall and have a spread of 18 inches. It blossoms clusters of white, star-shaped flowers from mid-summer to mid-fall.
Crushed leaves have a garlic taste, but the bulb gives much more intense garlic flavor. The flowers are edible in their bud state.
Garlic chives are more treated as flowers than herbs.
They also need regular care and are considered as invasive plants.
You can distinguish Allium ledebourianum or the Giant Siberia chives from the other chives through their height. Although it is almost identical to other varieties, the Siberian native is much taller, reaching at least three feet, thus getting its name. It has a spread of 24 inches.
It has blue-green tubular leaves and round, masses of rosy-violet balls of flowers that bloom during summer.
The Giant Siberian is popular for its richer and stronger onion-garlic taste.
It is a low maintaining chive that only needs regular pruning. Much like the other variant, giant Siberian is deer tolerant.
Siberian Garlic Chives
Allium nutans or the Siberian Chives (commonly referred to as blue chives) have erect blue-green foliage and pink flowers.
Siberian chives have larger leaves and bigger bulbs than any other chives. They can reach up to 40cm tall and have a spread of 15cm.
Chives vs Scallions: What is the Difference?
Chives and its relatives like the scallions, green onions, and leeks are very much identical to each other in terms of appearance and culinary use.
Identifying the differences and similarities of these classic ingredients may be very confusing for kitchen amateurs.
I listed below the differences between chives and scallions:
- Although chives and scallions come from the onion genus (Allium), they are different species (schoenoprasum vs. fistulosum).
- Chives are the only herb from the onion genus.
- Both leaves of chives and scallions are green and hollow. However, chives have thinner foliage.
- Chives are less pungent and have a milder onion taste than scallions.
- In cooking, chives are often used raw or as a garnish, while scallions are a popular substitute for chopped onions due to their strong aroma and rich flavor.
How to Grow Chives
Chives are not really particular to the soil but they will grow the healthiest in fertile, well-draining soil. Wet soil can cause stem and bulb disease to your chives.
You can use a combination of peat moss, vermiculite and organic matter for your home-made soil.
Adding rich organic matter on the soil during the planting will promote robust growth.
The ideal soil pH value of chives ranges between 6.0 and 7.0.
Light condition is the last thing you need to worry when you have your chives in your herb garden.
Chives can tolerate partial to light shade, but thrive the best under direct sunlight.
For best and robust growth, bathe them under direct sunlight for six to eight hours.
If you are keeping your herb indoors, you can place it in a sunny location such as by the window where it can still get enough amount of light.
You can also use a 75W grow light when your plant is located in a place where natural light is unavailable. It comes handy too as supplemental light during the winter season when daylight is much shorter.
Temperature and Humidity
Chive likes cool weather. The planting season of this herb happens from autumn to winter.
It tolerates mild-winter regions but goes dormant in cold-winter. Its foliage may wither during this period, but its roots are still alive. It will grow back in spring.
Chives thrive best in an air temperature ranging from 4°C to 29°C.
Garlic chives are very much more winter hardy than the other varieties. They can survive up to -37°C.
Chives tolerate occasional dryness, but you must keep the soil moist when the humidity is low and the weather is warm. Applying mulch on the soil will keep the plant’s moisture.
Chives require moderate regular watering. You can water it when its soil dries out.
It needs more hydration when the weather condition becomes warm and dry. However, overwatering may cause damage to the roots.
Growing chives may need consistent watering, while established chives can survive dry soil.
For robust growth, you can add rich organic matter on the soil as it provides nutrients to the plant.
If your soil is not that nutrient-rich, you can do top-dressing with a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer or granular plant food each spring or summer. Using compost is also a good option.
Fertilize your chives at least once a year for stable production.
Remember, over-fertilizing your chives may cause damage to your herb - much better to use organic fertilizer. The growth of your plant may be slow, but its richer taste is guaranteed.
There is a tendency that your chives may weaken from continues harvesting. If this happens, do a very light application of 5-10-5 fertilizer once a year. Do this during spring.
Transplanting chives is an easy task that usually has a successful outcome because of chives' hardy and resilient bulb.
Transplanting usually happens when you are trying to propagate your plant through dividing.
All you have to do is to prepare the new spot for your chives by ensuring nutrient-rich soil, enough sunlight, mulch and water.
Chives adapt easily to their environment. When given the right condition, there is nothing to worry about.
Depending on the variety of your plant, chives can grow up to two feet tall and one foot wide.
Pruning or trimming can be done to encourage new growth. It can also be your harvest time.
You can keep your harvested chives for cooking. You can either dry it, freeze it or use it fresh.
Harvesting starts from the base of the plant, not from the top. The tip of the leaves is the most flavorful part. We do not want it to go to waste. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut your chives one to two inches above the soil level.
You can trim your chives at least 60 days after if they are grown from seeds. If your chives are transplanted, you can harvest them 30 days after.
Chives can be harvested when they grow at least four inches tall.
When your chive blossoms flower, cut the bloom before they wither to avoid seeding.
You can harvest your chives three times throughout the year.
Compost, wood chips and pine straws can be used as mulch to retain the moisture of your plant and to prevent weeds from growing. It is also an additional organic matter for the soil.
You can start mulching your plant when it reaches a height of six inches. Mulch the soil bed with two-inch layer of bark.
Mulching young chives may hinder their growth.
There are two ways to propagate your chives: dividing and seed sowing.
Mature and established chives can be divided every three to four years. This activity usually happens in late winter or early spring. Dividing your chives regularly will make your herbs more productive.
In division, you separate the small bulbs from the root clumps.
Before dividing the plants, water them ahead of time. Then, trim the leaves two inches above the ground before digging up the plant.
Divide the clump into smaller sections. Each section should have at least four bulbs.
Chive roots are resilient, damaging them is the last thing you should worry about.
You can now plant the divided clumps 8 to 12 inches apart.
Chives bloom flowers that produce the seeds. Chives grow easily from the seeds, although much slower than propagating it by dividing the roots.
Once you have collected the seeds, sow them about 2 inches apart and a maximum of 1/4 inch deep. Normal potting compost can be used if you choose to grow your plant indoors.
Keep the compost moist. Seedlings may start to appear ten days later.
The best time to sow seeds is in early spring.
Chive seedlings don't really need special treatment. You can transfer your seedlings outside once they reach their first month.
Chives Health Benefits
Chives might be the last thing you would notice in your exquisite dish, but packed in its tiny green leaves is a bunch of nutrients and health wonders that will surely benefit your body. Lucky enough, this herb is widely available. You can even grow your own in your garden!
Once you finish reading this, you might want to include this pocket rocket in your daily diet.
- Chives are rich in vitamins, electrolytes, antioxidants and minerals essential for our body needs. They are also low in calories, which makes them a healthier alternative to other flavorings.
- Chives have anti-cancer effects. Allium vegetables and herb have been discovered to have anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that chives can reduce the risk of gastrointestinal and colon cancer.
- Chives are good for the heart. This wonder herb contains allicin that helps in lowering bad cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It also improves blood circulation. Chives also contain properties known to lower the risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Chives improve bone health. Chives are packed with vitamin K responsible for maintaining bone integrity and preventing bone demineralization. Demineralization of bones may lead to osteoporosis and arthritis.
- Chives are immunity boosters. Chives are rich in vitamin C, which strengthens our body's immune system. This herb increases the production of white blood cells and collagen which are our system's frontliners against flu and cold.
Uses of Chives
Isn't it amazing that the entire plant of chives is edible? Chives can be eaten fresh or cooked.
Because of their mild onion taste and aroma, chives have become a popular ingredient to spice up the natural flavors of our food.
If you are not going to use your newly harvest chives, you can either dry it or freeze for preservation and storage. However, dried chives may lose their taste.
There is a lot of ways to incorporate this popular herb in your everyday meal.
Chives are mostly used in soups, salads, egg dishes like omelettes.
Along with other herbs like parsley, tarragon and chervil, chives are a go-to garnish for a potato-based dish.
It is also a popular addition to sandwich spreads like mayonnaise and cream cheese.
For people who love parties, you can put chives in ice cubes to give a kick to your mixed drinks and beverages.
The young lavender blossoms of chives are frequently used to add color to green salad, bringing its spicy-hot taste.
The flowers are also added to white vinegar to give it a rosy color.
People normally consume chives through their food as one of the ingredients, and it is generally safe. Chives taken by the mouth in medicinal form may upset the stomach if consumed in a large amount.
There are reports that chives are effective in removing parasitic worms; however, more research is still needed to prove these claims.
Chive juice is used as an insect repellent. It also contains fungicidal and antimicrobial properties that are effective against scabs and mildew. It can also treat yeast infection.
Chives oil are reported to be effective in stimulating hair growth and improving dull hair.
People incorporate chives in their home-made face masks as it helps to boost skin radiance, and reduces fine lines and wrinkles.
You might have seen it on the grocery, read it on recipe guides or watched it being incorporated in an exquisite course meal; chives are one of the culinary classics that you should have not just in your kitchen, but also in your garden.
Chives belong to the onion family along with scallions and leeks. It has a mild onion flavor and aroma, a simple yet perfect touch to enhance the taste of your food.
Chive is the only plant in the onion family that is considered as herb.
It is almost identical to its brother, scallion, but you can distinguish it by its mild onion flavor and scent.
The popular variants of chives are the common chives, garlic chives, giant Siberian chives and the Siberian chives.
Depending on the variant, chives can grow up to three feet tall and one foot wide. It has narrow, green leaves that have hollow centers. It produces edible lavender to white flowers.
Growing your own chives is pretty easy. You just need organic-rich soil, full sun and moderate regular watering. It is also cold tolerant.
You can propagate chives by dividing its bulb or planting its seeds.
Bees and butterflies love chives, but deer seem to be unattracted.
Chives might be tiny, but they have a lot of health benefits in their bags. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-cancer properties. It is good for your heart and bones.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does chive taste like?
Chives are known to have a mild onion and garlic taste and scent. Chives are always compared to scallions. Scallions have a stronger onion-y flavor and aroma than chives. This is why scallions are the most preferred substitute for chopped onions. However, due to its mild taste and less pungent smell, chives are favored to be eaten fresh and raw, or used as a garnish in some popular dishes.
Chives tend to lose their taste when dried. The flavor is destroyed when cooked.
What is the difference between garlic chives and chives?
Chives have onion taste while garlic chives lean to garlic flavor.
Chives have thin, straw-like leaves, while garlic chives have wide and flat foliage.
Lavender flowers blossom from chives while garlic chives produce white flowers.
Are chives the same as spring onions?
Although they taste the same, chives are different from spring onions.
Spring onions have longer green leaves than chives. The white bulb at the end of spring onions is much larger than the almost nonexistent bulbs of chives.
Spring onions are the same species as scallions and green onions - Allium fistulosum. On the other hand, chives belong to the Allium schoenoprasum species.
Spring onions, scallions, and green onions have a stronger flavor compared to chives.