Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is simple to grow, and the herb can be added to many foods. It is a perennial outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. It also can be grown easily indoors on a windowsill for a year-round harvest. Using the correct techniques to harvest chives helps encourage new growth in the plant and keeps it healthy.
Ensure you have a continual harvest of chives by trimming the plant's shoots, or leaves, on a regular basis. Doing so at least once each month encourages new growth. Whether your plant is outdoors in a garden or indoors on a windowsill, follow a few simple tips for trimming it:
- Wait until the plant's leaves are 4 to 6 inches tall before cutting them.
- Use scissors to cut the leaves. Ensure your scissors are clean before using them by soaking them in a solution that is 1 part rubbing alcohol and 1 part water for a minimum of five minutes; then rinse them with fresh water, and let them air-dry.
- Hold the top of the chives leaves in one hand, and use scissors with your other hand to cut the amount you want to harvest from the plant.
- Cut the leaves to roughly 2 inches in height to spark new growth.
- Trim chives from the edge of its clump inward.
- Make straight, clean cuts.
Enjoying the Flowers
In summer, a chives plant produces ball-shaped, purple flowers. They are not only ornamental but also edible. Add the flowers to salads and soups for an extra pop of flavor and color.
Whether or not you use the flowers for cooking, pinching them off the plant before they go to seed can be beneficial because the plant propagates itself easily. When its flowers are left to go to seed, chives plants soon take over the space.
Whether you remove the flowers or let them bloom continuously on the plant is up to you. Leaving them on the plant through the flowering season has no effect on leaf production, and removing them only helps keep their seeds from spreading throughout the garden.
Caring for the Plant
If you live in an area that has freezing temperatures in winter, then cut your outdoor chives plant to the ground after the first hard freeze to keep the garden looking neat. The plant becomes dormant in cold weather, and its new leaves will appear in spring.
After three or four years, the clump of chives should be divided to give the plant the proper amount of space. Divide the clump in spring, planting sections containing up to six bulbs 5 to 8 inches apart.
Cooking with Chives
Chives is a staple of most herb gardens not only because it is hardy and relatively simple to grow but because it also has various kitchen uses.
Chopped chives are added to mashed potatoes, quiche, scrambled eggs, omelets, cream cheese spreads, soups and salads. They can provide color as well as flavor in many favorite dishes.
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