Chives are one of those herbs that is incredibly useful, both in the garden and in the kitchen. If you do not already have some space for them on your property, this article should inspire you to find some.
What are Chives?
Chives are a member of the Allium family. This means that they are a close relative of onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions, elephant garlic etc… They are a plant that is widespread across much of Europe, Asia and North America.
Interestingly, chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is the only species in this plant family that is native to both the Old and New Worlds. These plants are herbaceous perennials which grow into dense clusters around 12-20cm tall.
The bulbs are slender and conical and grow in dense clusters from the roots. Above these, scapes (stems) rise up. These are thin, hollow tubes around 2-3mm across.
Grass-like leaves also form. These are also hollow, though shorter than the scapes.
Flowers form on the scapes between April and June (earlier in the south and later in the north). These flowers are pale purple and star-shaped, with six petals.
They form on an influorescence of around 10-30 such flowers. Seeds are then formed in a small capsule, and mature in summer.
These plants are self-fertile, hermaphroditic, and pollinated by bees, flies, moths and butterflies. They are in leaf from February through to December and are not frost tender.
Chives have been cultivated in Europe since the Mediaeval period, though they have been in use for over 5,000 years.
1. For Their Culinary Uses
Of course, the main reason to grow chives is to use them as an edible crop. Chives are usually used as a herb, and can be utilized in a wide range of recipes.
The scapes and leaves are used to add allium flavour, though they are milder than other members of this plant family.
Chives are one of the fines herbs of French cuisine, and are also commonly used in many other cuisines across their native range.
Stems and leaves can be used as edible ties for bundles of herbs of vegetables. The flowers are also edible, and can be used in salads or in several other ways. 2. To Attract Bees and Other Pollinators
In addition to being useful as an edible crop, chives are also useful while in growth in your garden. Leave chives to flower, and they are excellent at attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators to your garden. Plant chives alongside and between your other crops, therefore, and they can help make sure there are sufficient pollinators around to pollinate all your food crops.
Chives have been listed as amongst the top ten plants for nectar production, which makes them a boon for bees and other precious wildlife.
If you want to help save the bees, planting chives in your garden is a great way to go.
3. To Attract Other Beneficial Insects
Chives also attract other beneficial insects – insects that prey on pest species and can help to keep your crops safe.
For example, they attract certain beneficial wasps, and ladybugs, that will prey on aphids and scale insects.
4. To Repel Pests
Interestingly, however, the onion-like smell of chives and other Alliums is said to repel many of the insect species that we don’t want around.
Carrot flies, Japanese beetles and aphids are all said to dislike the scent of these plants.
5. Protect Rose Bushes
They can also be useful planted near rose bushes to reduce the incidence of scab and black spot on those plants.
A chive tea made from boiling chopped chives in water can also be sprayed onto cucurbits, gooseberries and other susceptible plants to help control downy and powdery mildew.
This is due to the fact that the plant has been shown to have fungicidal properties.
6. As an Ornamental Plant
Chives, especially when in flower, are also a very attractive plant that can find a place in an ornamental garden.
They are decorative as well as functional and can enhance many a garden scheme.
7. To Decorate Your Home The flowers are not only attractive in the garden. They can also be used fresh or dried for floral arrangements and displays inside your home.