When was the last time you inventoried your spice rack? Spring is the perfect time to restock your herbs and spices. It’s not that they go bad, they just get a little stale. Herbs come from the leaves, stems and flowers of aromatic plants and over time they lose their freshness. Dried herbs can last a long time, but don’t purchase more than you’ll use in a year.
Herbs can be expensive, but bulk purchases aren’t a bargain if they don’t get used. On-the-spot access to fresh herbs is more than enough reason to grow your own. When the aromatic oils linger on your fingers and chopping board, you know your food is going to taste good. Best of all, herbs infuse flavor without adding sodium, calories or carbs.
Chives are one of my favorite herbs. Rachel thinks I’m a little bit obsessed with them, and she may be right. Chives are related to garlic, leeks, scallions and shallots. They’re the most delicate member of the onion family. They can perk up the most uninspired dish with their fresh taste, green color and sharp fragrance. From the tiny bulb to the lavender flower, the entire plant is edible. Each part of this grass-like herb has a slightly different degree of onion/garlic flavor.
The tubular stalks are actually leaves, and the most intense flavor is at the tips. They’re best chopped finely with kitchen shears and eaten raw. Sprinkle on soups or grilled fish. Sour cream and chives make for a refreshing dip or a tangy potato topping. Chives and deviled eggs are a delicious pairing. In fact, chives are the perfect complement to any egg dish.
As for the flowers, remove the central stems from the blossoms to release the individual florets. Combine with cream cheese for a savory spread on a crusty bagel. Add chives into cooked foods just before serving, as heat will diminish the color and flavor. Sprinkle some on the plate for an attractive presentation.
Chives are extremely easy to grow. They do best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Once they’ve become established, these perennial herbs are extremely drought tolerant. Just remember that chives are self-seeding and will overtake their share of the garden if the blooms aren’t removed. They grow as well in containers as they do in the ground.
Chives are easy to start from inexpensive transplants. Our initial investment of a couple of dollars has been providing us with savory herbs for more than a dozen years.
Harvest the tips for the most flavor. Chives will grow to about 12 inches. When they become unruly, just lop off the tops with shears. Run your fingers through the leaves every few weeks to remove any dead stalks.
Chives are most flavorful when they’re fresh. When you grow your own you don’t have to worry about storing them. Just clip off the exact amount that you need. There’s no waste. These resilient plants are the first to appear each spring and last well into autumn.
Chives aren’t just good for the gardener, they’re good for the whole garden. They attract more pollinators than any other plants we grow. Chive flowers bloom from April through June and the bees just can’t get enough. Let some of your chives bloom for the pollinators.
Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org