Chives (allium schoenoprasum) have a light onion flavor, and their hollow, green leaves grace our summer salads, soups, omelets, and almost anything else that needs a hint of garlic or an herbaceous punch. They are a classic match for potato salad, but they are versatile enough to work with almost any cuisine.
How to Cultivate Chives
- Soil: Plant chives in fertile, well-drained soil. Integrate a little organic fertilizer or healthy compost into the soil and avoid over-fertilizing throughout the season, so you'll obtain the best flavor.
- Sun: Chives thrive in full sun, but they will grow almost anywhere. If you are growing chives indoors, place them in a south-facing window or a spot that receives at least six hours of sunshine.
- Water: Keep the soil moist. Chives grow best when watered frequently, as long as there is proper soil drainage.
- Spacing: Chives grow about 12 inches tall and spread about 12 inches across. When planting chives near each other, keep the bulbs at least six inches apart. Every three or four years, divide the bulbs, so that they keep proliferating.
- Companion Planting: Plant chives alongside carrots, tomatoes, mustard greens, or cabbage. Chives actually repel carrot flies, aphids, and cabbage worms. This spring, I planted chives near my apple tree, since chives are known to prevent apple scab. Talk about putting your garden to work for you!
How to Harvest Chives
- Leaves: Using garden shears, clip chive leaves, cutting one to two inches above the soil. Clip leaves from the outer portion of the plant first, making sure not to clip all of the plant at once. If you make a mistake and cut back all of the plant, no worries. It will grow back the following year. Wait to harvest your chives when the plant is at least six inches tall.
- Blossoms: Clip the flower at the base of its stem. The stem is edible but is often tougher and "woodier" in taste than its leaves. Chives flower between May and June, and the blossoms are tasty in salads and in chive blossom vinegar.