Photo and article by Donna Iverson
There’s a lot to be said for chives. Whether in the garden, kitchen or medicine cabinet, chives get high marks.
First off, you can grow it anywhere. Chives make a great edging for a flower or vegetable garden, can be grown on a deck, on a window ledge or even in an old coffee can. Wherever it is planted it will beautify the spot and protect nearby plants from harmful pests. Deer avoid it.
Chives would be at home in a butterfly garden, a cottage-style garden, an herb garden, a flower garden, or a windowsill kitchen garden. It even likes growing in broken down cement blocks, like this one in a nearby community garden.
A member of the onion family, chives closest relatives are garlic, shallots, scallions and leeks. It’s pinkish lavender flowers appear in late spring and are the mildest tasting in the onion family. Chives are one of the first plants to break ground in the spring.
It’s stalks, called ramps, are edible as is the purple flower which is pretty much recognized by everybody. Chives are used to flavor fish, omelettes, soup, and who hasn’t had a chive garnish on a baked potato with sour cream?
An ancient herb native to the New and Old Worlds, chives are high in fiber, vitamins A and K, is an antioxidant and contains choline, which relaxes muscles and can aid in sleep. As for attracting pollinators, chives draw both bees and butterflies. It is one of the top 10 plants for nectar production.
Chives is one of the easiest plants to grow making it perfect for new gardeners, children, and anyone with a so-called brown thumb. It likes sun and well drained soil, but that’s about it for requirements. It can be purchased as a small plant at gardening centers and even in the grocery fresh food section. Heirloom organic seeds are also available from catalogs like the Seed Savers Exchange Heirloom Plants at
There are many varieties of chives including garlic chives, sometimes called Chinese chives, which have a white flower and a garlicky taste. Fresh chives are so much better than dried chives, like the ones sold in small bottles at grocery stores. Even frozen chives retain their fresh taste.
Historically, the Romani used chives for fortune telling and hung it around the house to ward off evil spirits. The Dutch feed it to their cattle to produce a unique milk flavor.
So if you want an easy to grow plant, that attracts pollinators, is pest-repellant, is health giving and beautiful, chives fits the bill.