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Chives: the Best Beginner Herb!

“Did you ever wonder why recipes don’t ever call for using a chive? Why no one ever talks about eating just one chive? Perhaps it is because they multiply so quickly and grow so closely together that when you go out to the garden to pick them, you can never pick just one. Or perhaps it is because chives taste so good that no one can eat just one.”

(from Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs)

Chives are probably the perfect “beginner herb” for someone just beginning to dabble in the world of herb gardening. Chives are super easy to grow – they require only average soil fertility – and while they prefer full sun, they’ll also do okay in partial shade. Chives are generally not bothered by pests.

Chives are beautiful in any garden – herb, vegetable, or flower garden. They are particularly striking during their late spring bloom. Chives will grow in your garden throughout spring, summer, and fall – and are hardy enough to survive winter in northern Illinois (and even further north, to Zone 3) to grow even bigger and better the following spring.

Chives are delicious – both the leaves and the flowers are edible, tasting like sweet, mild onions. Chives are best eaten fresh, cut right from the garden or your windowsill, then snipped into your tossed salad, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, or roasted potatoes (just a few of my favorite uses for chives).

I enjoy making chive blossom vinegar in late spring – an easy and delicious use for those beautiful pink-purple flowers. The flowers add a lovely pink tint to the vinegar and it makes for a much appreciated gift from your garden. Chive blossom vinegar can be used in place of any other vinegar, adding just a hint of chive flavor to your dish.

Chives are best used fresh. They do not dry or freeze well. However, they can be brought indoors for fresh harvests all winter long. Dig up a clump in late summer and plant them in a pot. Leave the container outside for several months to allow the green tops die back and for the bulbs to freeze. The bulbs need a cold dormant period before they’ll regrow their leaves. Then in early winter, bring your pot of chives indoors and place on a sunny windowsill. Within a few weeks, you’ll start to see the green leaves begin to grow – and you’ll be able to enjoy delicious freshly-snipped chives throughout the remaining winter months.

Chives are not invasive, but they will most definitely multiply in your garden. Which means you can easily get a clump of chives from a gardening friend to plant in your own garden (no purchase required!) – and in a few years, you’ll be able to offer the same gardening gift to others!


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