Chives (Allium Schoenoprasum)
Surprisingly, I think, chives are the smallest member of the lily family, although obviously also closely related to the onion family. This modestly sized, although undeniably good looking herb with its spiky slender leaves and rather impressive if slightly blousy flowers, is an absolute must have. Non negotiable. Not only are they highly decorative, chives add immensely to so many dishes from snacks to three course feasts – and they freeze well – that every garden should boast at least one.
You will need to keep a pair of scissors handy for your chives; get snipping and add fresh to sandwiches, tomato salads, scrambled eggs, any other egg dishes, piping hot new potatoes with or without butter according to your preference, pizza, mixed into some warmed crème fraiche to make a tasty sauce…..do you get the picture? A sprinkle of lovely bright green chive leaves enhances so many dishes with a subtle hint of onion flavour and if you are feeling bold, try teasing the flower heads apart and add some of the florets for a little explosion of more intense flavours.
As I have learned herbs of all kinds feature prominently in literature ancient and otherwise and chives are no different. They are mentioned in books as early as 380 A.D., also popping up in the very first Latin-English dictionary c.1440.
Famously, chives added a little magic to Crème Vichyssoise when Louis Diat, the longstanding chef of the Ritz-Carlton in New York at the turn of the last century, added them to the popular but undeniably humble leek and potato soup. Who knew?
Closer to home, however, some believe that the wild chives which can be found flourishing by Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, are the ancestors of those brought here by the Romans when they took up residence. We do know that they used chives to treat sore throats and they can indeed strengthen the immune system. The allicin in chives is connected with lowering blood pressure, the leaves are a mild antiseptic and contain vitamin K. No wonder chives enjoy such everlasting popularity
Just grow from seed, simple, and looks great in pots. Chives are easy to grow and look after, liking rich warm soil and a good sunny position. Alternatively buy young plants and pot them on into bigger pots or direct into your garden.