Herb of the Week: Chives

We are starting a gardening section here on our blog at Smiling Goat Farm. Enjoy!

We’re excited to announce that over the next 5 weeks we will be doing a post per week, each post highlighting one of my favorite herbs, why I grow them, and how I use them. This week, we’ll be doing chives.

This week we’ll be covering chives!  Chives are not really a true herb (they are in the onion family), although I lump them into the herb family because I use them to garnish dishes, mostly potato dishes, stews, and sauces, and to add quick, healthy flavor.  It’s also a great time to talk about chives because right now in my garden (early March), I am seeing bright green shoots about four inches tall emerge from the cool, overwintered dirt. They are one of the first edibles to return in late winter. As soon as they are 8-9 inches high (and that will likely be by the end of March or early April here in the Northwest), you can start to cut them and add them to your cooking.  I just use my kitchen scissors.  Cut only what you need and snip them near the base. 

High in vitamin C, they spread like crazy.  Every year I dig a big chive clump out with my garden fork, chop the thick root mat into halves or thirds with my spade, give a few clumps away, and stick one of my remaining clumps back in the ground.  You don’t have to do this unless you need the space.  They are hard to kill so don’t feel bad as mangled as they appear after chopping them up.  Just water them in well.  

I also keep at least three chive clumps growing at once.  Here’s why:  Chives need to be completely cut back 2-3 times during the growing season.  If you don’t, they will get leggy, go to seed, and you won’t have nice fresh shoots for eating. If you keep three or so plants, you can rotate so that you always have fresh new shoots for eating. The flower heads put on quite a show, as those lavender-colored puff balls are a wonderful bee attractant.  Once the flower heads have dried out, they will drop their seeds and provide you with an even larger clump the next year (or, shake some of the tiny black globular seeds into a pan and give them away!)

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