Chives are a very easy plant to grow. We garden in zone 3 on the Canadian prairies. Chives are unique in our urban garden as it seems to be the hardiest plant we have. Ours is planted in a garden on the south side of our house. Without fail every year as the snow melts there it is green and lush and growing well. This truly is a plant you buy once and asks very little from the gardener.
Chives are a perennial member of the allium (onion) family. They have a mild onion and or garlic flavour. Personally I find the flavour quite similar to a scallion. You can eat the leaves and also the blossoms.
Chives prefer full sun but will survive in shade. It is a cool season plant. It will grow very early in the spring, dry up in the summer and have a resurgence in the fall. You can start it from seed or root stock.
Before buying ask a friend or neighbour for a piece. It can be aggressive, so often gardeners thin it out by pulling out chunks every couple of years. Most years between the middle and end of May it will bloom. By removing the blossoms you avoid chives spreading seeds and becoming a thug in the garden. When summer heat hits and the leaves die back, trim to the ground to encourage new growth.
Using Chive Leaves
Over the years we have found several tasty ways to use them.
Any dish you put green onions in, you can use chives. A wonderful addition to any salad dish and don’t forget the perfect topping to a baked potato. Chive leaves are a bit more tender than green onion. For this reason I find chopping them with kitchen shears instead of a knife is best. They stay crisp longer this way and less likely to be bruised in the process.
If you want to preserve some for the winter. Try cutting some and freezing on a cookie sheet Once frozen you can bag them. They are ready to be added to soups or stews in the winter months. You can dry chive leaves as well, however the flavour does diminish with this preserving method.
Try drying the blossoms. Cut the stem of the blossoms close to the ground. Give them a quick rinse and shake off the water. Wrap an elastic around the stems and hang upside down in a cool dark area. Once dry I remove the petals and store in an airtight container.
Using Chive Blossoms
This is where the fun comes in. Chive blossoms are also edible and lend a delicious scallion like flavour. Try adding to deviled eggs, salads, butter or biscuits.
Chive Blossom Butter
Rinse 3-4 large chive blossom in water to remove any small insects. Rest the blossom on a towel to drip dry for a few minutes. Pull the petals from the flower head and set aside.
In a small bowl stir room temperature butter until smooth. Add in the blossom petals and mix. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Prior serving use a small cookie scoop to make individual balls of butter. This butter goes great on Chive Blossom Biscuits
Try adding a chive blossom to your martini. It’s a great twist on a classic.
With chives ease to grow and numerous uses you may want to consider planting chives this spring.