Allium schoenoprasum are the chives most used for culinary purposes and the chives that have the beautiful pink flowers. ‘Fine-leaved’ chives have a delicious, mild onion flavour. They keep their slender shape and do not get course or tough with age.
The narrow linear leaves are snipped and used primarily fresh, stirred into uncooked foods, such as soft cheeses or salads or added to cooked foods during the last few minutes of cooking, or as a garnish. The attractive flowers, mauve in rounded heads, are edible and make a very pretty garnish.
Fine-leaved chives are thinner and smaller than regular chives, they are a good choice for growing in containers. The plants are raised from seed and will soon produce strong clumps that grow to 20cm (8in) in height. Regularly harvesting the tops of the leaves helps to stimulate further new young growth, which has the best flavour.
Chives are perennial bulbs that spread to form neat tufted clumps, ideal for edging beds and paths. They are particularly attractive when in flower and are a favourite of bees and other pollinating insects.
The ideal soil is well-dug with the addition of well-rotted compost or organic material. Work in a handful or two of bonemeal per square metre (yard). Chives are not greedy, so it is not necessary to feed throughout the year if the soil has been prepared as described. Full sun or partial shade suit them equally well, and although they are fairly tolerant of drought, don't plant them in very dry places.
Chives are the ideal herbs to plant in a container, which can be in your garden or on a windowsill. Keep chives out of full sun if they are in a pot outside and water well.
Sowing: Sow indoors at any time, Sow directly outdoors from May
Sow the seeds indoors using normal potting compost in March time or directly outside from May once the ground has warmed. To sow seeds directly broadcast the seeds, or sow in rows 20 to 25cm (8 to 10in) apart.
The optimum germination temperature is around 16 to 21°C (60 to 70°F). Make sure the compost remains moist. The seedlings will appear 7 to 18 days later. Transfer outside a month after sowing, Thin the chives to 4 to 6 shoots per clump and space 20cm (8in) apart.
Water in dry spells otherwise the leaves will turn yellow and die
Chives produce a mass of purple flowers in late spring, and a second flush may well occur between June and July. If you are growing the plants for eating only, these flowers should be removed as soon as possible - if left, they restrict the growth of new leaves. If the flowers are required for eating or for their colour, it is best to keep separately a couple of chive plants for this purpose. When the flowers are starting to fade, cut the whole plant to 5cm (2in) from ground level and you will then have a second set of leaves produced and probably a second flush of flowers
Chives are perennial evergreen plants, and keep their leaves in most winters. In colder winters, the leaves may die back completely, but don't despair - their roots are still alive and they will begin new growth next spring.
Chives are very similar to onions, they have a bulbous root and green leaves. Simply dig up the clump of bulbs in March or October, carefully separate them into individual bulbs and replant with the tips of the bulbs level with the soil surface. They thrive on this method of propagation, because it relieves the congestion in the bulbs.
Cut the chive leaves with scissors when required, starting with the outside leaves (those nearest the edge of the pot) and working your way inwards. Always leave 5cm (2in) of leaves remaining. The leaves rapidly grow back and can be cut several times in the growing season. Plants grown from seed should be left alone (although remove the emerging flower heads) until July in the first year to allow a good root system to establish itself. Remember when cooking that overheating will destroy the flavour.
Chives are one of the herbs that do not dry well so keeping chives fresh is the key to keeping the flavour and the colour. Seal bunches of chives in a plastic bag and keep in the fridge for up to seven days. Chopped chives can be frozen in ice cube trays. Dried chives can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to six months.
As a member of the allium family, they will help to deter aphids, moles and weevils.
Chives are one of the most ancient of all the herbs and the first record of chives dates back 4000 years to China when Marco Polo reported his culinary appreciation of chives to the West.
Chives were used in China to stop bleeding and as an antidote to poison. There are also records of chives being used in the Middle Ages but strangely, chives were not found in European gardens until the 16th Century.
Chives are a cultivated crop in the Netherlands, Germany and China. (Dutch farmers used to feed their cows chives in order to produce milk with a fresh flavour).
They grow wild in Europe, Australia and North America where they thrive in the warm and hot regions.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 750 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 750 seeds per gram Family Alliaceae Genus Allium Species schoenoprasum Cultivar Fine Leaved Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Pink, July to August Height 20cm (8in) Spread 15cm (6in) Position Full Sun Soil Well-drained/light, Chalky/alkaline, Sandy