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The Chive Brothers

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

Onion and garlic chives are two members of the onion family that are happy to grow in almost any environment. Onion chives are small and will grow nicely in containers or in the garden. They�ll send up 8-12 inch hollow grass-like leaves with a light onion flavor. Garlic chives grow about twice as tall and have a more assertive garlic flavor. Garlic chives have taller flat leaves.

Plant either of these perennial herbs anytime during the growing season. When purchasing, select a pot with as many young shoots as possible. They can easily be divided when transplanting, giving the seedlings more room to grow and multiplying your harvest. Check the plant label to see if you�re getting onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum), which is what most cooks use, or garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), used more in Asian foods. When young these siblings look nearly identical. If the label is missing or vague, pick up the pot and take a sniff. The aroma of onion or garlic will reveal which one you have.

Whichever one you choose, plant them anywhere you have full sun and good drainage. Lavender pom-pom chive blossoms appear in late spring to early summer. These blossoms are edible and can be sprinkled on salad for a gourmet touch. Garlic chive blossoms appear just before Labor Day. The white clusters are over two feet tall and 2-3 inches across. If you allow them to set seed and dry, you will be rewarded with long lasting blossoms for dried flower arrangements.

The only problem with growing chives is their ability to self-sow. Garlic chives are the biggest culprit. Every spring I have an abundance of seedlings within a three foot radius of the main clump. Fortunately they can be pulled up with ease.

Harvest chives as soon as you begin to see new growth. Clip a portion of the leaves to within 2-3 inches of the soil (yes, that low). Each time you clip during the growing season, cut a different section of the clump to give it time to recover. Chives can be kept with their ends in a glass of refrigerated water for several days before using.