Simply the Best Herbs-February

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What is Paradise? But a Garden, an Orchard of Trees and Herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights.  ~William Lawson, 1618

 

Spring brings so many bulbs that are senses are overwhelmed with a kaleidoscope of colors and the heady perfume creating a dizzying effect.   In the mix of these spring blooms, rises a simple but amazing herb that has a distinctive fragrance and a simple look.  It is an incredible IMG_5200performer standing up to cold raw days.  And when the warmer breezes blow in, lovely pompom blooms are revealed as the paper covering is peeled back.  Of course I am talking about chives or Allium schoenoprasum.

I love the onion smell that comes from brushing against the early chive growth as I am passing through the garden surveying and weeding.  Chives are another standout herb in any garden.  I am linking in once again with Diana@Elephant’s Eye on False Bay for her meme, Dozen for Diana, as I profile this wonderful herb.  I am also linking in early with Carol@May Dream Gardens for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the 15th.

 

 

Name

IMG_1922Allium schoenoprasum or chives, belongs to the large genus Allium which is part of the Amaryllidaceae or the Amaryllis family. Garlic, leeks and shallots are also part of this group.  This perennial is native to Europe, Asia and North America. And A. schoenoprasum is the only species of Allium that is said to be native to both the New World and the Old.  It is found throughout the northern hemisphere, and the native plants found in North America are classified as A. schoenoprasum var. sibiricum or wild chives.

Allium schoenoprasum grows wild in Greece and Italy.  So it is no surprise that it gets its name from the Greek skhoínos (sedge) and práson (leek). I can see the Greek name in the plant as it resembles a smaller sedge or a leek.

The English name, chives, comes from the French word cive, or from the Latin word for onion, cepa.

 

 

About

Chives are a bulb-forming perennial plant, growing to 1-2 feet tall. The bulbs grow in dense clusters from the roots. The leaves are thin, tubular and grass-like. The flowers are pale purple and star-shaped and appear from April to June.I think the flower resembles a clover flower.  The seeds that form mature in summer.

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Chives thrive in well-drained soil in full sun to part shade in zones 4-8. I have mine in clay amended soil that is quite moist all spring and they love it.  And I also have some that grow in quite a bit of afternoon shade which does not affect their ability to grow 1-2 feet and flower beautifully.

In cold regions, chives die back in winter, with the new leaves appearing in early spring. During the growing season, the plant will continually grow leaves, allowing for a long harvest.   You can cut the leaves three or four times in the season if you cut them fairly close to the ground.  After the cut, they will soon grow again and be more tender each time you cut them. You can keep cutting until until frost comes.

The dense clumps are easily divided in spring or fall. You can grow chives quite easily from seed, and they will self-seed in the garden if spent flower heads are not dead-headed.  The seeds are small and black when ripe; similar to onion seeds.

IMG_3686Most people find it easier to propagate chives by dividing the clumps in spring or autumn. Leave about six little bulbs together in a tiny clump.  The clump will spread and grow into another large clump in a year, and may then can be divided again.

I love to dig up a few bulbs and pot them up for winter growing inside.  They grow quickly and easily, and even produce several flowers.

Chives have no serious insect or disease problems although root rot may occur in very wet soil. Chives tolerate drought and black walnut trees, and are deer resistant.

 

 

Folklore

It is documented that the ancient Chinese were the first to use chives as long ago as 3000 years B.C.

Marco Polo is credited with bringing chives to Europe from China, but the Romans also are attributed with bringing chives over to Europe earlier where they now grow wild.IMG_4629

Chives are said to have been used in Europe as far back as 5000 years ago, but have only been cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages.

The Romans believed chives could relieve the pain from sunburn and a sore throat. They also believed that eating chives would increase blood pressure and act as a diuretic.

It was believed that if you hang bunches of dried chives around a house you can ward off disease and evil much like garlic.

Romanian Gypsies are said to have used chives in fortune telling.

 

 

Uses

Culinary uses

IMG_4561Flower heads can be used as a garnish for soups and salads and I plan on using more edible flowers like this in the coming season.

Although chives are the smallest of the alliums it still has a wonderful flavor.  Chive leaves are a commonly used herb in cooking popular when cooking fish, potatoes, pancakes, soups, omelets and other dishes.

Chives are one of the “fines herbes” found in French cuisine.

Chives are delicious sprinkled in salads:  green salads, cucumber salad, or tomato salad.

 

Medicinal uses

Chives are rich in vitamins A and C, are rich in calcium and iron and contain trace amounts of sulfur.  The medicinal properties of chives are similar to those of garlic, but are said to be weaker which is why they are not used as much.

Chives are said to have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, and are a mild stimulant, diuretic and antiseptic.

 

Garden uses

The purple flowers are often used in dry bouquets which I will have to try.IMG_5005

Chives can be used in gardens to control pests.  One pest they are said to repel is the dreaded Japanese beetle.  I will have to watch for this.  The juice of the leaves can be used for insect repellent as well as fighting fungal infections, mildew and scab.

Even though chives can deter insects in general, their flowers attract bees for pollination especially of the veg garden.  I have many clumps near my veg beds.

Chives make a nice ornamental plant in the garden.

 

 

Language of Flowers

Chives are said to represent usefulness and I can concur.  They have so many uses or you can just grow them for their sheer beauty in the garden.

 

 

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The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk. ~Jacqueline du Pre

 

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Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether spring or fall or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays, gardens and celebrations in pictures, poetry or words.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of winter here in the North and spring in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.

The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the equinox (the 20th of March).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the equinox to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create).  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!

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Next up on the blog:  Monday I will have a great garden book review with a seed giveaway.   At the end of February is another Wildflower Tale featuring spiderwort.   Spring is getting closer and closer, and Seasonal Celebrations will be here starting with a post on March 1st.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

 

 

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