Common chives have globe-shaped pink to lavender flower heads and hollow, tubular-shaped leaves. The flowers and leaves are both edible and the delicate onion flavor of their leaves is frequently used in salads, sauces, egg dishes, and as a garnish.
Garlic chives, also called Oriental or Chinese chives, have flat, hollow leaves and white flower blossoms. Their leaves have a mild garlic flavor useful for adding spice to soups, salads, sauces, and meat dishes. Garlic chives can be invasive in some areas.
Plant them in a sunny location, in rich well-drained soil and mulch lightly around the base to prevent weeds and conserve moisture. Avoid planting chives in wet areas or heavy soils, which can encourage stems and bulbs to rot.
Deadhead flowers throughout the summer to keep plants from going to seed. This is especially important for garlic chives, which can quickly become invasive due to self-seeding. In cool climates, divide clumps every 3 years in the early spring. In hot climates, divide them in the fall.
Chives can also be planted in containers or potted up at the end of summer and brought indoors. At the end of summer, cut back a few of the tufts to the ground and transplant the clumps into a pot. Bring them inside and place them near a sunny windowsill to enjoy fresh chives all winter.
After cutting, remove any yellow leaves, then rinse them and pat them with a paper towel. Chives don't dry well - their leaves and flavor fade over time. It's better to harvest them and use them fresh, or freeze them. To freeze, fold a tuft in half and place in a small freezer bag. Snip off small portions to use as needed.
One of the more popular ways chives are used is as a component in the traditional herbs mixture of French cuisine called, "fines herbes", which contains equal portions of chives, tarragon, chervil, and/or parsley.
Type: Hardy perennial; zones 3-9.
Height: 6-10 inches.
Spread: 12 inches.
Flowers: June; pink to lavender (common chives); white (garlic chives).
Location: Full sun or slight shade, in rich well-drained soil.
Planting: Set out nursery-grown plants in early spring; space 9 to 12 inches apart.
Harvesting: Cut leaves close to the ground; cut often.
Preserving: Use fresh or freeze; grow in winter by potting a few clumps in fall and placing near a sunny window.
Propagation: Lift and divide clumps every 3 years.
Companion plants: Recommended for carrots, grapes, roses, and tomatoes.
Wildlife: Not bothered by deer or rabbits. Oniony taste of leaves repels many insects; flowers are attractive to bees.
By Ellen Brown