Newest Review: ... with carrots and so far my carrots have not succumbed to carrot fly. Chives will happily grow up to about 60cms. Once the Chives... more
Your salads will love these
Member Name: Stewwydablue
Advantages: Very easy to grow and look and taste great
Disadvantages: Attract bees - very good for pollinating plants but not so good if you don't like bees.
Growing food and cooking from scratch go hand in hand in my opinion. "Growing your own" doesn't have to be tricky or require acres of space - chives are an excellent example of how a pot kept outside can give you lots of tasty greenery without much (if any) care or required knowledge of gardening. Their oniony taste transforms meals, their flowers are attractive to look at and bees love them - very important considering bee populations are in worldwide decline. Once you've grown some and see how useful they are, you'll be planting them all over the place.
Chives are thought to be around 5,000 years old and are part of the allium family, which includes onions and garlic. The word chive comes from an old French word, cive, which derived from the Latin word for onion - cepa. Chives have many qualities - they can be eaten, look good, are useful companion plants (I'll explain more about this later) and have medicinal properties too. On top of all that, they are an absolute doddle to grow. I was in my garden yesterday and thought I heard my welsh onions singing a Bee Gees song, but it was just a chive talking.
GROWING YOUR OWN
Chives are easy to grow from seed. Try planting them directly outside in April, or they can be started off earlier indoors or under cover. Put the seeds about a centimetre deep into the soil, keep moist, and within about 3 months you'll be able to start cutting off the stalks to eat. You can pick up chive seeds from as little as 30p from places like Lidl, Wilkinsons, B&M etc.
The plants form tiny little bulbs in the soil that look like miniature onions - these can be separated by dividing them up when they are 2 to 3 years old, then these divided clumps can be replanted elsewhere and the whole cycle starts all over again - free plants!
They are at their most vigorous growth during the "growing season" (roughly April to September), but last year I had a second flush of growth due to the very mild (it got up to 20 degrees in October - in Lancashire!) autumn which was a pleasant surprise. When growing, the green stalks will reach about half a metre high, and have more rigid stalks that sit up proudly from the clumps with lovely purple flowers on them, about the size of a golf ball. These are what bees love, they also look fantastic and can be cut off and used as a garnish. If you're not into bees or making the garden look pretty but instead simply want the green leaves, then cutting off the flowers will protect the taste of the green stalks - these lose their flavour a bit when the plants are in flower. Cutting them back encourages new tasty growth, so get harvesting regularly for best effect.
They can cope with a wide range of conditions, although you may want to give some protection if the weather forecast predicts severe frost. They will take up as much space as you allow them to - a single seed can be grown in a yoghurt pot on your kitchen window sill, or you can have masses of them around paths and borders in your garden. I once grew some out of a wellington boot in my back yard, my wife was a bit puzzled at first but then warmed to the idea when visitors made good comments about them and how quirky the idea was. Ooh, get me with my "outside living space" creative ideas!
They make excellent companion plants for carrots - the onionesque scent of them puts off the carrot fly which can ruin your crop of carrots, it masks the smell of the carrots.
Every time I need some, I harvest them by snipping off the top four or five inches of a fistful of stalks. These get rinsed in water to knock any bugs or cobwebs off, then using a pair of scissors I snip the ends off very finely into a bowl, and keep snipping till its all gone. This gives you tiny little green rings which can then be tossed in with salads, cooked veg, soups and stews, mixed into sour cream, or folded into soft cheese. Chives also go well with fish and eggs, and I highly recommend trying them mixed in with boiled new potatoes. They don't dry out very well and when I tried I had a bunch of what looked like dried brown grass - I didn't use them. They do freeze quite well though - I chop them finely (using the scissors to snip them into little pieces) and freeze them in ice cube trays with a drop of water.
Chives' medicinal properties include having high amounts of vitamins A and C, and they're also good for thinning your blood, in a similar way to garlic.
A very easy plant to grow that both looks good and tastes great, I urge you try growing some for yourself - they're an excellent beginners' plant and hopefully might give you the "grow your own" bug.
Summary: Try and grow some - they're fantastic.
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