Chives: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about chives

Allium schoenoprasum, the smallest species of the edible onions, is a perennial of the Amaryllidaceae family. Chives are a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plant, growing to 30–50 cm tall.

The bulbs are slender, conical, 2–3 cm long and 1 cm broad, and grow in dense clusters from the roots. The scapes (or stems) are hollow and tubular, up to 50 cm long, and 2–3 mm in diameter, with a soft texture, although, prior to the emergence of a flower, they may appear stiffer than usual. The leaves, which are shorter than the scapes, are also hollow and tubular, or terete, (round in cross-section) which distinguishes it at a glance from Garlic Chives.

The flowers are pale purple, and star-shaped with six petals, 1–2 cm wide and produced in a dense inflorescence of 10-30 together; before opening, the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract. The seeds are produced in a small three-valved capsule, maturing in summer. The herb flowers from April to May in the southern parts of its habitat zones and in June in the northern parts.

common names & nomenclature
The name of the species derives from the Greek skhoínos (sedge) and práson (leek). Its English name, chives, derives from the French word cive, from cepa, the Latin word for onion.

Also known as:
chives, chinese chives, petit poureau, garlic chives, siberian chives, ail civitte

Chives, the flavorful onion
Chives: Where in the World
habitat and range for chives

Allium schoenoprasum is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It’s is the only species of Allium native to both the New and the Old Worlds.

Chives: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting chives

Chives prefer full sun, commonly grown in cultivated beds, rock gardens, perennial beds and herb gardens.

Chives thrive in well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, with a pH of 6-7.

Chives can be propagated by seeds or division. Sow seeds indoors in a fertile soil mix, in a greenhouse or similar. After about 4 weeks the seedlings can be transplanted to the outdoor garden.

Harvest the leaves by cutting to the base of the plant. During the growing season, the plant will continually grow new leaves, allowing for a continuous harvest.

If not using the leaves fresh, they can be dried and cut into smaller pieces. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Chives: The Rest of the Story
chives history, folklore, literature & more

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a member of the Allium family, which includes leek, onion and garlic. This particular species—the only one of this family to inhabit both the Old World and the Americas—is named from the Greek word that means, “rush” or “leek.” Like its botanical cousins, the herb presents itself in clumps grown from hills. However, the chive plant is usually the first herb to appear in spring and one of the last to succumb to winter’s grasp. The purple flowers, which resemble purple pom-poms, also possess sulfur compounds. While bees find them very appealing, predatory insects do not.

Although the flowers can be used to flavor breads, vinegars and cordials, people are generally more interested in the slender stems of the plant, which impart a mild onion-like flavor. Chives are a component of French fines herbes, usually bundled together in a bouquet garni with chervil, parsley and tarragon to season soups and stews. Chives are also used to flavor cheeses, most notably traditional Polish twaróg, a soft product also known as quark cheese. In Sweden, chives are added to gräddfil, a sauce with a consistency similar to sour cream that is traditionally served with herring. Chives are also featured in French cuisine, often paired with savory herbs and added to omelets, sauces, breads, vinegars and vegetable dishes. In the U.S., chives can usually be found floating in a pool of butter or sour cream atop a baked potato, or blended with cream cheese as a spread for breads and crackers.