When the colonists arrived on the shores of America, among the kitchen
and medicinal herbs that crossed the ocean with them were chives.
Down through thousands of years, chives have been cultivated and
developed. As long ago as 3,000 B.C., onion chives (Allium
schoenoprasum) were found growing in the gardens of China.
The great Emperor Charlemagne, in A.D. 812, listed the already
familiar chives among the more than seventy other herbs in his famous
Dodoens gives the French name for it in his days: "Petit poureau,"
relating to its rush-like appearance. In present day itís common
French name is "Ail civitteĒ. The Latin name of this species
means "Rush-leek". The well-known herbalist of Englandís
sixteenth century, Parkinson, also cultivated this familiar herb.
Chives are the smallest, though one of the finest-flavored of the
onion tribe and belongs to the botanical group of plants listed as
Alliums. The variety, A. Schoenoprasum "Ruby Gem", has
gray foliage and pink-ruby flowers. Allium schoenoprasum
"Forcaste" grows slightly larger than the usual chives. Another
important allium species in China and Japan is the Welsh onion which
provides a continuous supply of bunching onions and leaves throughout
the year. Though said to be a native of Britain, Allium
schoenoprasum can be found growing throughout temperate and
northern Europe but rarely is it found in an uncultivated state.
In the Southern gardens of the U.S., this hardy perennial is
frequently seen delicately edging a garden bed because it makes such
an attractive border plant.
The Chive contains a pungent volatile oil, rich in sulphur, which is
present in all the onion tribe. Although herbalists of old did not
find much medicinal use for chives, it was believed that chives could
drive away diseases and evil influences; bunches of them were hung in
homes for this purpose. But modern research has found sulfur oil
is antiseptic and helps lower blood pressure, but only in fairly large
quantities. Chives can be called a healthful rather than
medicinal herbs. They are useful in toning the stomach, reducing
high blood pressure, and strengthening the kidneys. Chives also
are rich in calcium which strengthens nails and teeth. Chives
stimulate the appetite and tone up the kidneys.
delicate piquancy that they impart to food makes chives best known for
their use in cooking; they taste like mild, sweet onions. Mince the
fresh leaves to flavor dishes and donít overlook the flowers.
Toss them in salads or garnish dishes with them.
This plant is a hardy perennial. The tightly crowded bulblets
grow in clumps very close together in dense clusters. The
hollow, round reed-like spears of leaves appear early in spring and
are long, cylindrical and hollow, tapering to a point. They grow
from eight to twenty inches tall, though they rarely reach over a foot
in gardens. The leaves should be harvested before flowering,
usually about four to six weeks after the growing season begins.
The flowering stem is hollow and either has no leaf, or one leaf
sheathing it below the middle. The mauve pin-cushion blossoms
consists of numerous flowers encased in paper-like bracts and densely
packed together on separate, slender flower-stalks. The flowers
are in blossom in June and July. With consistent watering, the
blooming period can be lengthened. Keep free of weeds - once
grasses become established in a clump of chives, they are difficult to
familiar variety of chives (Allium tuberosum) is commonly known
as Oriental garlic or Chinese chives. Easily distinguished by
its garlic aroma and taste, this herb also grows in clumps like onion
chives, but has lighter green flat reed-like leaves. Garlic
chives are taller, reaching up to two feet, and produce delicate
clusters of starry white flowers which bloom in late summer, lasting
well into fall. Full sun is preferred but they can tolerate some
shade. This hardy perennial can be cut back frequently to
promote thick growth. Garlic chives are prolific self-seeders
and can become invasive if not controlled. Both chives grow
easily, but slowly, from tiny, black seeds; the garlic chive seed are
twice as large as the onion chive seed. Both chives will reseed
themselves if allowed.