Know Your Herbs: Chives
It’s truly surprising that we don’t all know the difference.
My goal today is to change that. Chives have a rich history and cultural heritage which totally merit them getting their own unique, distinctive identity.
Chives certainly don’t pose a divisive issue in the gardening community – though you will be dividing them in your vegie garden. They’re grown easily enough and make a delicious addition to most garden fresh culinary creations. I know I’ve never hesitated to pop a few of these bad boys in my backyard or pot them indoors.
Besides, dried chives just don’t get the job done. You need fresh, garden-grown chives to get that crisp, tangy bite you’re craving.
Generations before us seemingly felt the same way about these awesome little buggers. When explorers, adventurers and merchants travelled, they travelled with ideas about how to better make use of their home region’s chive varieties. That’s right – chives are native to most populated regions of the world. They even grow in arctic regions (up to live-able certain latitudes and altitudes)! The trick was that their kickass natural properties had to be discovered, whether by happenstance or cultural exchange.
Rumour has it that chives were part of ancient Chinese natural medicine from as early on as 3000 B.C. Even though the historical records can’t quite substantiate this, it isn’t so far-fetched. Chives are downright loaded with Vitamin D and, as members of the genus Allium, possess tons of the traits we love about garlic and onions. The compounds produced within chives’ edible leaves and flowers are capable of fighting bad bacteria, infections, sickness and fungus – they’ve even copycatted garlic’s circulation-improving power! Throughout Asia and Europe, chives have been used to halt excessive sweating and rising blood pressure.
Mankind’s quiet love affair with chives goes beyond healing properties, great though they might be. Any gardener worth his salt will tell you about their pest-repelling and pollinator-attracting properties. In the early 1800s, Swedish naturalist Anders Retzius wrote chives into one of his botany books, confirming their utility. He notes them as an ideal plant for filling in the nooks and crannies in garden pathways and deterring the onset of beetle invasions.
Not to mention, chives produce lovely blooms. All in all, these traits makes chives perfect border plants.
We're lucky that in sub tropical regions Chives grow all year 'round. That could be one reason why chives are part of many traditional harvest dishes. Their purple flowers are found scattered across plates as a garnish, and their scapes are tossed in when maximum flavour is needed.
Appreciate chives as much as I do? Let’s work together to spread this enthusiasm. No garden should go without a good growth of these healthful, helpful herbs!