Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is a flowering plant in the Amaryllidaceae onion family. Plants like onion, garlic, shallots, leek, and scallions belong to the same family. But what is the chives plant, where does it grow, and why is it such a popular addition in home gardens? Read on, and you’ll find out everything there is to know about this beautiful herb.
|Botanical Name||Allium Schoenoprasum|
|Plant Type||A Herbaceous Perennial|
|Size (Fully Grown)||About 1 To 2 Feet Tall (30 To 61 cm) With A Spread Of 1 Foot (About 30 cm)|
|Sun Exposure||Prefers To Grow In A Full Sun Environment|
|Soil Type||Sandy Loam|
|Soil pH||From 6.0 To 7.0|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, And 11|
|Native Area||Temperate Regions Of Europe, North America, And Asia|
Different Chive Varieties
We grow several chive varieties worldwide, while the most popular one is “common” chives or onion chives from the Allium schoenoprasum species. Other species are also chives, cultivated under slightly different names, and show varying characteristics. Here are some of the most popular varieties:
Common Chives – With a flavor and scent like onions, common chives have hollow, long leaves that look like grass. The onset of spring brings clusters of purple-pink blooms, which are also edible.
Garlic Chives – Have an onion-like taste, with a hint of garlic. The leaves are flatter than the ones common chives have. Its white flowers appear in late summers and last till early fall. The foliage and flower buds are a common addition to stir-fries, meat, and vegetables. They can spread quicker than you’ll expect. But removing the flower heads before they go to seed can control the spread.
Giant Siberian Chives – They’re pretty like common chives but larger. They can grow even 3 feet tall (about 91 cm) and bloom in late summers with violet flower heads that can grow to a diameter of 2 inches (about 5 cm). They have the most intense garlic-onion flavor among all other varieties, and we believe that the type is native to Siberia.
Siberian Garlic Chives (Blue Chives) – Have distinct blue-colored foliage that grows upright with pink flowers that appear in midsummer. You can grow them indoors, near a sunny window, during winters.
Why Should You Grow Chives?
These cool-season perennials are grown as ornamentals for their showy purple flowers and as a pot-herb for their edible leaves and flowers. You can use them while still fresh to garnish meals or dry them and use them as a seasoning for vegetables, salads, and soups.
Chives bring a subtle onion flavor and fragrance to bring out the flavor of any dish, together with a burst of bright colors, making it the perfect garnish to add finishing touches to a gourmet meal.
You can get this plant easily from most grocery stores or even grow them in your backyard. Not only are they easy to grow, attractive, and flavorful, but they also keep some prevalent garden pests at bay.
History Of Chives: The Herb Of Both Worlds
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is one of the oldest members of the onion family and is the only species in the genus Allium that has been growing wild in both the “New World” (Americas) and the “Old World” (Europe, Asia, Africa) for centuries. Though we humans have been using the plant for culinary and medical purposes for over 5000 years, its cultivation began in Europe during the Middle Ages.
In the past, chives have also served as an important medicinal herb. For example, Romans used it to relieve the symptoms of sore throat and sunburn, and it was also used to control blood pressure and as a diuretic.
But over the centuries, chives have also found some major cultural significance. Some people believed that dried chives hanging from the house walls could keep diseases and evil away from the family. They have also been used for fortune-telling. During the 19th century, cattle were fed chives in the Netherlands for a change in taste to the milk.
What Does The Chives Plant Look Like?
Common chives are often confused with scallions or garlic chives. Though they all belong to the same family, they are not the same. They might exhibit a similar appearance but are different species entirely. Scallions are longer and broader than chives, with the foliage drooping as they grow longer. Garlic onions have flatter, broader leaves and give a stronger garlic flavor than the common chives.
Common chives are herbaceous perennials that produce elongated white bulbs with tubular leaves growing out of it in clusters. The plant grows to 12 to 20 inches (about 30 to 51 cm) high. They can be propagated through seeds or by dividing and planting small bulbs. Light purple flowers shoot above the foliage in springtime, giving an ornamental appeal to gardens.
Tiny white bulbs that grow in clusters from the roots are conical and 0,4 inches wide (about 1 cm), somewhere between 0,78 to 1,1 inches (about 2 to 3 cm) long. These bulbs are different from the large, singular bulb that develops underground like an onion.
The species has thin, tubular leaves, much like grass. These hollow leaves are used for garnishing or dried to add to seasonings. They bring a subtle garlic flavor to the dishes they go in.
The hollow stems are longer than the leaves, growing up to 20 inches (about 50 cm) in height, and are soft until the flowering season. They’ll turn tougher in texture right before flowering begins in spring.
The plant produces lilac flowers in umbels of 10 to 30. Each flower is star-shaped and has six petals, with a diameter of 0,4 to 0,78 inches (about 1 to 2 cm) once they are mature. Only a few seeds are produced in valved capsules, which mature once the summer comes.
It’s not just the flavor and the attractive looks that the gardeners love about this plant. It’s also the smell! Common chives give off a mild onion scent to add life to your garden and a spark to your dishes. Besides, their smell keeps the nasty bugs away from your garden while attracting the good bugs for pollination.
What Are The Best Growing Conditions For Chives?
Chives is a cool-season crop that thrives when you grow them in spring and fall. This is because hot summer temperatures will slow down their growth. Even though it grows well, it’s always helpful to know the optimal growth conditions this plant prefers.
They grow best when the temperature is between 40 – 85°F (4,4 to 29°C), and that’s why the plant is grown during spring in most regions. However, in mild-winter areas, gardeners plant them in autumn or winter. They’re very cold-hardy, and mature plants can even tolerate temperatures as low as -35°F (about -37°C).
Chives thrive in a full sun growth spot but tolerate partial shade. Well-drained, sandy-loam that’s rich in organic matter is best for growing them. Amend the soil with compost to a depth of 6 to 8 inches (approximately 15 to 20 cm) before planting.
Water And Fertilizer
Chives will need regular watering until they’re established. The established plants are drought-tolerant, but go ahead and offer them a drink if the leaves’ tips start to turn brown. You can also side-dress it with aged compost at midseason to keep growth at its best.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Chives?
Chives are commonly used for flavoring meals, but best of all, they also offer some medicinal benefits. For example, they have been used to treat parasitic worms and lower blood pressure. But, should anyone avoid consuming them? Are there any side effects? Let’s find out.
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
Chives are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women as long as they’re consumed in moderate food amounts. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much research on whether consumption in large quantities is safe or not, so it’s best to eat it in moderation.
Chives are safe for children when consumed in moderate amounts. However, eating in excess may make it difficult to digest and result in an upset stomach.
People With Allergies
Risks of allergies from chives are considerably low. Still, if you are sensitive to onions and other edibles from the onion family, you’ll most likely be allergic to chives as well. Contact dermatitis may also result in rare cases.
People With Diabetes
Chives are an excellent source of potassium and beta-carotene that can boost insulin sensitivity and manage type 2 diabetes. But, it’s best to consume it in moderation.
Like all other alliums, chives are toxic to cats and dogs. Contact a veterinarian immediately if you see any vomiting, hemolytic anemia, blood in urine, weakness, or panting.