Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) come in several forms, but the most common one has roundish leaves that are used for their onion-like flavor. This perennial member of the onion family is hardy in Zones 3-10. In spring, it has lovely purple flowers made up of masses of florets. Chives are cool-season, cold-tolerant perennials that are planted in early spring. Be mindful when planting this herb, as it will take over your garden if the flowers are left to ripen (the flowers scatter the seeds). However, this plant is easy to dig up and move if it overwhelms your garden.
From seed, sow indoors and cover lightly with the medium about 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Plant in potting soil in a deep container or flat. Sprouting will occur in about 10 to 14 days at 60 to 70 degrees F. Set seedlings in clumps in the garden. Outdoors, seed can be sown in furrows or broadcast to grow in clumps. Chives like full sun and rich soil. They can take partial shade, but will not grow as fully erect. The leaves will die back in the summer heat but may return in the fall. Clumps should last four to five years before dividing.
Harvesting and Storing Chives
Chives can be harvested fresh for use in salads and recipes. Cut a few leaves to the base, but don’t shear the whole plant down to the base or they won’t be able to manufacture food for the roots. The flower heads can be used to make chive vinegar and the flowers can also be dried. To dry the flowers, put them in a paper bag, but leave the mouth of the bag open. Don’t tie the stems together or they may rot instead of dry. Chives can be dried by snipping the leaves as you would for a salad, and then placing them on a fine screen or nylon mesh in a warm place, out of direct light. Stir regularly for several days. When dry, seal in jars. Leaves can also be frozen in airtight bags.