Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives are a close relative to onion, garlic, leeks and scallions. Of these, chives have the most delicate flavour.

Chives are a member of the onion family and can grow wild in Europe, Asia and North America. They have been harvested from the wild for many millenniums though are thought to begin cultivation in the middle ages.

This herb only became popular in the 19th century after growing wild all over Europe and North America.


The pink flowers can be eaten and can be divided into florets and sprinkled across food. The bulbs of chives have a delicate onion like flavour with a hint of garlic.


Chives have a slightly garlicky and delicate onion-like aroma.


Chives are at home in French cuisine. Add chives to potatoes, eggs, cheese and sour cream.


Chives are a hardy plant that can survive cold winters and will cope with drought and wet weather. They are a perennial that will regrow after cuttings. Chives will grow in early spring, sprouting a slightly mauve coloured flower.

When the flower begins to die and before the seeds form trim the entire plant.

Chives are easiest to grow from potted plants as it is a long process from planting seeds to useable plant. It is best to start with 2 year old chives and divide or transplant.

If chives are kept well watered and well weeded, yield will be quite high.

Every three years you should revive chives by dividing them in to smaller clumps of 5 or 10 and then replanting. When your chives start to go limp cut them down to 5 cm from the bottom.

They like their soil to be moist and in a warm and sunny position, though can cope with some dappled shade.


Historians have dated chives to 3,000BC, with origins reported as either Siberia, China or Greece. Medieval gardeners often used chives around their borders for both decoration and to ward off insects. At that time it was also thought that hanging bunches of chives around the house would ward off evil.

Around a hundred years ago chives were used by gypsies in their fortune telling. It is said that the Siberians treasured chives and used them as a gift to god. They were believed to be given to Alexander the Great, when he came to Siberia to marry Princess Roxiana. They were given as they believed that chives were to greatest aphrodisiac known to man.


Chives are claimed to be a natural antibiotic and an effective antiseptic. Chives are said to be rich in calcium, phosphorous, sulphur, folic acid and vitamin A and C. The mild anti-inflammatory properties in chives mean that it can lower the chance of getting rheumatoid arthritis if eaten every day. Chives contain a high amount of vitamin K which studies have shown has the potential in promoting bone strengthening and limiting damage in the brain.

The allicin content in chives may lower cholesterol and blood pressure. During digestion chives eliminate bacterial, yeast and fungi from intestinal tracts letting your digestive system work fully. Chives are great to keep on hand in case of getting wounds, if chives are rubbed on open wounds it can reduce the chance of fungal infections.

Facts About Chives

Chives are an ingredient in Five Herbes, which are a collection of herbs essential to the French cuisine.

Common Questions

Are chives and green onions the same thing?

While green onions and chives are used in similar ways they are not the same as one is a herb and one is an onion. In some cases they can be interchanged for each other, but not always.

Should chives be allowed to flower?

Allowing your chives to flower will not harm the plant at all. As opposed to garlic where the plants energy needs to be put into growing the bulb, chives do not. The flowers of chives can be eaten and if left will result in the plant self-seeding.

Can chives be frozen?

If your yield of chives has been large you can freeze you chives for future use. To do this cut the chives to the desired size, place them on baking paper and place them in the freezer to snap freeze. After frozen, place them in a zip lock bag.

Will chives grow in winter?

Chives are a perennial herb so will not completely die off in the winter, though they generally will not be as healthy looking as in summer. If you’re wanting a healthy supply all year round, plant the chives in a pot and bring them inside during winter.