Onion Chives – A. schoenoprasum

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Chives is the common name of Allium schoenoprasum. It, like most of the other species, is a choice edible. A perennial plant, it is widespread in nature across much of Europe, Asia and North America.

Chives are a commonly used herb and can be found in grocery stores or grown in home gardens. In culinary use, the scapes and the unopened, immature flower buds are diced and used as an ingredient for fish, potatoes, soups, and other dishes. Chives have insect-repelling properties that can be used in gardens to control pests.

Chives are a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plant, growing to 30?50?cm?tall. The bulbs are slender, conical, 2?3?cm?long and 1?cm?broad, and grow in dense clusters from the roots. The scapes (or stems) are hollow and tubular, up to 50?cm?long and 2?3?mm?across, with a soft texture, although, prior to the emergence of a flower, they may appear stiffer than usual. The leaves, which are shorter than the scapes, are also hollow and tubular, or terete, (round in cross-section) which distinguishes it at a glance from Garlic Chives. The flowers are pale purple, and star-shaped with six petals, 1?2?cm wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence of 10-30 together; before opening, the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract. The seeds are produced in a small three-valved capsule, maturing in summer. The herb flowers from April to May in the southern parts of its habitat zones and in June in the northern parts.

Although chives are repulsive to insects in general, due to their sulfur compounds, their flowers attract bees, and they are at times kept to increase desired insect life. Chives are grown for their scapes, which are used for culinary purposes as a flavoring herb, and provide a somewhat milder flavor than those of other Allium species. They can also be dry-frozen without much impairment to the taste, giving home growers the opportunity to store large quantities harvested from their own gardens.

Chives planted between the rocks making up the borders of their flowerbeds, to keep the plants free from pests (such as Japanese beetles). The growing plant repels unwanted insect life, and the juice of the leaves can be used for the same purpose, as well as fighting fungal infections, mildew and scab. Its flowers are attractive to bees, which are important for gardens with an abundance of plants in need of pollination.

The medicinal properties of chives are similar to those of garlic, but weaker; the faint effects in comparison with garlic are probably the main reason for their limited use as a medicinal herb. Containing numerous organosulfur compounds such as allyl sulfides and alkyl sulfoxides, chives are reported to have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system. They also have mild stimulant, diuretic, and antiseptic properties. As chives are usually served in small amounts and never as the main dish, negative effects are rarely encountered, although digestive problems may occur following overconsumption.

Chives are also rich in vitamins A and C, contain trace amounts of sulfur, and are rich in calcium and iron. Chives are cultivated both for their culinary uses and their ornamental value; the violet flowers are often used in ornamental dry bouquets. Chives thrive in well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, with a pH of 6-7 and full sun.

Chives starting to look old can be cut back to about 2?5?cm. When harvesting, the needed number of stalks should be cut to the base. During the growing season, the plant will continually regrow leaves, allowing for a continuous harvest.