C is for Chives

A chive gone to seed has a distinctive purple pointy papery flower.

A chive gone to seed has a distinctive purple pointy papery flower.

Chives are relatives of the onion, garlic, and leek; all are members of the Allium family. Grown by seed or by dividing an already-established plant, chives need very little soil to thrive. A mere four to six inches deep of soil is enough, making chives an excellent choice for small pots or small, shallow gardens.

The colors of chives run anywhere from green to blue to silver with a pink, purple or white flower making the chive a natural aesthetic choice for any garden. In addition to the steely colors, the tall flexible stems adds a vertical dimension. The grass-like perennial can sway meadow-like in the breeze, or can stand tall, disparate to a trailing rosemary and thyme. The flowers are edible.

Chives come in several varieties. For instance, I’m growing a garlic chive that tastes more subtle than garlic but that has garlic essence. I’ve found that I can get a hint of the garlic flavor without the bad side effects that garlic gives me. As chives age, they begin to look slightly weedy. I simply pull the clumps, throw half to the chickens, and put a few back in the ground. With no effort on my part, the chives continue to expand into the space. I’ve got the chives planted next to lemon grass and a variegated purple sage interspersed with a thyme (that is in need of a haircut).

This section of my garden is an herb garden because of the shallow bed. We’ve recently made this area into a raised bed gardening area for me, but we haven’t built the soil up yet. As I make and add compost, the hard clay underneath gives way slightly and the addition of organic matter extends upward, too. In another year or so, the soil in this area will be deep enough to grow more substantial plants. In the meantime, I use it for cherry tomatoes buried sideways and herbs.

Here's a look at the lemon grass, basil, pineapple sage, thyme, stevia, kale and chives. Raspberries are in full swing right now

Here’s a look at my herb garden today: lemon grass, basil, pineapple sage, purple sage, thyme, stevia, kale and chives. Raspberries are in full swing right now in the background.

Also in the background, you can see a bale of straw (not hay–hay has seeds; straw is a by-product making it a cheap, excellent mulch and an absorbent bedding for the chicken coop).

In the kitchen, you can add chives to almost anything. Use scissors to cut chives quickly. By adding just a tablespoon of chives, any dish looks and tastes fresher. One tablespoon of chives is one calorie. I like putting them in salads as I really don’t garnish most of my meals. I wonder why I don’t. Maybe I will start today.

About master kindergardener

Santa Clara County Master Gardener since 2007, Mom since 2009, Gardener since birth.
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