Chives are a versatile herb grown for their leaves and the beautiful, edible purple flowers they yield each spring. Both the leaves and flowers impart a delicate oniony flavor to recipes.
Chives are hardy perennials that prefer full sun, but they can tolerate partial shade, as well. As with most herbs, it is a good idea to provide some afternoon shade in warmer climates.
When it comes to soil, chives are not fussy. However, for best results, plant chives in well-drained soil rich in organic material.
Like most plants, chives don’t perform well when water drainage is poor. For this reason, they are ideal for container and raised bed gardens. Make sure your plants receive plenty of water until they are well established. They will also need plenty of water throughout the growing season, so be sure to keep the soil around them moist.
Chives are cold hardy to USDA zone 3, which means they will come back each spring in most areas. After 3 or 4 years, divide clumps in the spring for even more oniony goodness in your garden!
Tips for Using & Storing Chives
To harvest chives, trim the leaves down to an inch or so above the ground. The goal is to leave enough so the plant can regenerate itself. Use fresh chives on top of baked potatoes, in salad dressings, soups, or to make herb butter.
The purple flowers can be harvested as they bloom in spring. They make a colorful, tasty addition to mixed green salads or as an edible garish for a light-colored thick soup.
Chive blossom vinegar is also beautiful and delicious. To make, rinse and dry enough chive blossoms to fill a sterilized glass jar about ½ way full. Fill jar with white wine vinegar and seal with a lid. Store in a dark place for 2-3 weeks. Then, strain the liquid and discard the blossoms. Use the infused vinegar in marinades, salad dressings or on roasted veggies.
Chives are best enjoyed fresh, but they can be frozen in ice cube trays covered with water or olive oil or on their own in plastic bags with all the air removed. Freezing does not affect the taste, but the texture is damaged. As a result, thawed chives are best in soups and sauces.
Learn more about chives at the University of Illinois Extension.