Friday, May 27, 2011
My Herb Garden Staple; or, Why You Should Grow Chives
If I could only grow one herb in my herb garden (which would be sad, I have to say), I would choose chives. I think I may have inherited my enthusiam for them from my mom. Here are a few reasons why I love them and why you should have them in your herb garden, too.
1. Chives are really, really easy to grow.
Whether you plant chives by seed or transplant, you won't have much difficulty. Chives sprout easily from seed. Like most plants, chives prefer to grow in rich, moist but well-drained soil, but they're tolerant to other conditions. I can attest to this. My chives have grown, even flourished in my garden boxes when other crops haven't. They've gotten buried in late-spring snowstorms and baked in the summer heat and still produced wonderfully.
2. They are perennial.
Unlike many herbs, chives come back year after year. They're very resilient. My chives usually start coming back to life in March. I've walked to my garden, over my soggy, snow-spotted lawn in early spring to snip chives from my otherwise frozen garden.
3. They're easy to harvest and use.
Just snip as many as you need out of your garden, rinse, and cut them into tiny pieces before adding them to food. It's recommended to harvest them before they flower, but I've used them after they've flowered. One other great thing about harvesting chives -- they grow back quickly.
4. They are versatile.
I use chives in recipes all the time. They give food a nice, mild onion and garlic flavor. I love using them in a variety of foods -- eggs, salads, dressings, salsa, any potato dish, pasta dishes, and lots of other things. If I have a recipe that calls for green onions/scallions, I'll use chives instead if I have them on hand.
4. They preserve really well.
Last fall, I wrote a post about preserving herbs and I mentioned that you can freeze chives. Simply cut up the chives into little pieces, spread them in a single layer on a plate, and freeze. Once frozen, store them in an airtight container or zipper bag. No need to thaw them when you want to use them. When I wrote the post, I hadn't used frozen chives before. I harvested all of my chives in the late fall and froze them. We used them all winter long and they tasted great and worked as well as fresh ones. My mom was so excited to learn this tip and she plans on freezing some of her chives all summer to build a stockpile for the colder months.
5. They're pretty.
They add a nice splash of color to my garden. Plus, they attract bees and I'm all for helping those little bees out.
6. They're good for you.
Since they're part of the allium family of plants, they have certain anticancer, antibacterial, antiviral, and anticlotting properties. However, since they are milder and contain less sulfur compounds, they're not quite as beneficial as their cousins, garlic and onion. Still, chives have high levels of Vitamin C and A, plus essential minerals such as potassium, calcium, and folic acid. They're also said to be mildly antibiotic and can aid digestion when they're sprinkled on food.
7. They're a great herb for the frugal garden.
The plant is inexpensive and will pay for itself since it comes back year after year. The savings is even better if you grow them from seed. I like replacing green onions with chives not only because it saves me the $1-2 dollars for a bundle of green onions, but because I waste less using them. I'll usually only use part of the package of green onions before they wilt and get kind of slimy. With chives in my garden, I get as many as I need as I need them.
8. Grow them anywhere.
In your garden, in a pot on your patio, or in a small container in your kitchen. Anyone can grow these and enjoy all the benefits. Who would have thought a little plant could do so much?