by Barbara Porsch, Master Gardener,Herb Enthusiast
Bon appetit magazine hit the nail on the head when they said “More than just a garnish, chives are the breakout star of the onion family, awakening every dish they touch.” Onion chives, Allium schoenoprasum, and Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum, are hardy perennials that can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Onion Chives have tubular leaves and pink or purple pom pom type flowers in spring and early summer. Garlic Chives have flat leaves like liriope with white flowers (actually a round clump of individual florets) in late. If you let them go to seed, they will spread everywhere, especially the Garlic Chives. Both flowers are edible and tasty in salads or vinegars. Cut and use chives fresh, dry to preserve, or freeze. To freeze, mince chives and fill a plastic ice cube tray. Then fill each cube with water and freeze. After they are frozen, pop them out and store in a freezer bag. These will be excellent in soups and cooked dishes, added at the end of cooking time. When harvesting, don’t just go in and give it a butch haircut. Go down to the base of the leaf and cut there. This prevents ugly brown stubs which will never grow out, and encourages new growth from the base. Chives need good fertile well drained soil, as too much moisture can be damaging. They do well in pots with other herbs as long as the soil is rich and well-draining and they are fed regularly. Yellowing, either in a pot or in the ground, usually indicates a lack of nitrogen. Use chives on more than baked potatoes or garlic bread. Use on eggs: omelets, soft boiled, hard boiled or scrambled. Use in soups, such as vichyssoise, lettuce and pea soup, chowders. Use in salads. Use crumbled crisp bacon and chives in egg salads. Let your imagination take over with shrimp and celery salad, crab or chicken salad, Waldorf salad, potato salad – all with chives. Vegetables: buttered peas with lots of chopped mint and chives, asparagus. Main dishes and pastas all beckon to chives. Make chive butter to use on meats or fish and chicken. For best flavor and food value, add fresh cut chives to food just before serving. Chives are easy to grow, easy to use and no garden should be without them.