(Allium Schænoprasum).—A mild substitute for the Onion in
salads and soups. The plant is a native of Britain, and will
grow freely in any ordinary garden soil. Propagation is
effected by division of the roots either in spring or
autumn. The clumps should be cut regularly in succession
whether wanted or not, with the object of maintaining a
continuous growth of young and tender shoots. At intervals
of four years it will be necessary to lift, divide, and
replant the roots on fresh ground.
Chives grow in clumps, with their round, hollow,
grass-like leaves reaching a height of 9 inches or so. The stems are firm,
straight, smooth, and, like the leaves, bright dark green. The flowers, which
bloom for two months in midsummer, form round deep purple or pink globes that
make an attractive garnish.
The easiest way to start chives is to dig a clump from
an established patch to transplant into your garden. They are also easy to start
from seeds. Plant them directly in the garden as early in spring as the soil can
be worked. Seeds can be planted as late as 2 months before the first fall frost.
Chive seed germinate easily, but slowly. Sow
seed about 1/2 inch deep in flats containing a peat-based
soilless mix. Maintain constant moisture and a soil temperature
of 60 to 70 F. In four to six weeks, the young plants can be
planted outdoors, preferably after all danger of frost is past.
Chives can also be direct seeded outside when the soil is warm,
but then few if any leaves should be harvested that first year.
Chives may be propagated by simply dividing large clumps into
smaller clumps of about 5 bulbs each at any time during the
growing season. All plantings should be divided every two to
three years to prevent over-crowding. Space plants 4 to 15
inches apart in rows 20 or more inches apart, depending on the
width of the cultivator that will be used. Chives are bothered
by few disease or insect pests.
Leaves can be harvested after established plants
are 6 inches tall. To harvest, simply cut the leaves 2 inches
above the ground. Usually, in home gardens or small herb
operations, all the leaves of a clump of plants are not cut off
at one time. This allows that same clump of plants to be cut
over and over again throughout the growing season. The new
growth, however, will be very tender. All plants should be cut
regularly to encourage new bulblets to develop, to prevent
leaves from becoming tough, and to prevent flower formation.
Snip with scissors than cut with a
knife. The snipped chives give a hint of onion flavor to egg dishes, cheese
soufflés, salads, soups, cream cheese sandwiches, and sour cream dressing for
baked potatoes. Chive butter is great with grilled chops and steak.