Common chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a savory perennial herb used as a flavoring agent and garnish for salads, soups, sauces and other dishes. Chives will grow to around 10 to 12 inches tall. They prefer sunny locations in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10. That means this cold-tolerant herb will grow just about anywhere in the continental United States. Once established, chives come back year after year, and they are easy to harvest.
The green tubular leaves of chives are the part you’ll want to harvest. Start harvesting the leaves of your chives when they reach 10 to 12 inches tall, which normally takes about six weeks. Gather 10 to 15 leaves in a bunch between your fingers and use garden shears disinfected with alcohol or a household cleaner to snip off the bunch about an inch or two above the soil. Place the harvested leaves in a collection container. If you need more chives, snip other bunches at different locations around the plant. Be sure to leave plenty of leaves to feed the plant.
An alternate harvesting method for chives involves a complete cutting of the leaves. Gather the entire clump of leaves in one hand; take your clean shears and cut off the whole clump about an inch above the ground. Allow the plant to regrow to at least 10 inches before doing another complete cutting. This method can be used three or four times during the growing season. Regular harvesting either in small batches or by complete cutting ensures tender leaves and encourages the plants to form new bulblets.
To dry chives in your oven, gather them in the morning after dew has evaporated. Wash them and lay them out on a clean, dry kitchen towel. Pat them dry with a second towel. Pick out tough stems and discolored leaves. Set your oven at its lowest temperature setting. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Snip or chop the chives into 1/4-inch pieces and spread the pieces evenly on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place them in the warm oven on the top rack. Drying normally takes two to four hours. The chives are done when the pieces crumble easily between your fingers. For storage, pour the dried chives into a clean, dry, lidded jar. Screw the lid on tightly and keep the jar in a dry, dark location.
Freezing the Harvest
Flash freezing is an easy way to preserve your harvest of chives for later use. Chop the chives into small pieces and spread the pieces out on a room-temperature cookie sheet. Place the sheet in your freezer and leave the chives to freeze for five minutes or until the pieces are crisp but not frosted. Pour the frozen chives into an airtight plastic container, and return the container to the freezer. To use, remove the container from the freezer, pour out the amount of chives you want and immediately return the container to the freezer.
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