Chive Alive!

One of the first plants to come up in the Spring is the humble little Chive.   That tasty grass-looking herb with the mild onion flavor.

This member of the Allium genus is easy to grow and is often the first success of a fledgling perennial herb garden.  It grows in a clump of tiny bulbits, which start out as white at the soil line but quickly turn green as you travel up the stem.  The bulbits send out fresh growth early each Spring, with beautiful onion-scented purple flowers soon after.  These flowers attract many pollinators, and they will soon turn pale and papery, full of angular black seeds which are easily collected or shaken out to resow.  It is easy to reproduce chives by dividing the bulbits as well, so if you have a friend growing them, they will likely be happy to share some.

This herb is well-known for its mild onion flavor that is most commonly seen with sour cream atop a baked potato.  But the Chive’s delicious flavor can add real pick-me-up to a variety of dishes, salads, and even condiments.  Chop or snip raw chives on to dishes for a fresh onion pop of flavor, or add to blended salad dressings, dips, hummus, anywhere you like a little zip.  The beautiful purple blooms are edible, too, and their unique oniony flavor makes a beautiful addition to salads, quiches, and salsas.

Chives are plentiful in the Spring, and will continue to grow after the blooms fade in May, but the growth the rest of summer is not as vigorous.  Cutting the plants back to about an inch high after the flowers drop can help.  Chives are very easy to dehydrate to use later; they can be cut long and hung to dry or placed in a dehydrator, they left whole or chopped.  They can also be cut to size of choice and frozen with water in ice cube trays.  Pop the cubes out when done and store in a zip-lock freezer bag.

Chives have a cousin called Garlic Chives.  They are very similar in flavor and habit, except the leaves on Garlic Chives are a bit flat, and the flowers are white instead, and the blooms a bit more spread out on the stem.  They appear almost like the shower of fireworks.  And yes, the flavor is a bit more toward garlic.

If you already have Chives, they are likely growing and close to blooming by now.  If not, now is the time to find some and put some in your herb garden.  They also grow well in a pot on your windowsill.  Either way, chives are a great herb for beginners and seasoned gardeners alike, easy to grow and so many ways to use.  A great way to sneak a little “fresh vegetable” into your everyday dishes.

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