Chives, scientific name Allium schoenoprasum, are part of the allium family of vegetables and herbs.
Chives are the tiniest allium family member and the only species native in both the Old and New Worlds.
The botanical name, Allium schoenoprasum, derives from the Greek meaning reed-like leek.
The English name chive comes from the Latin cepa, meaning onion, which in turn became cive in French.
Chives 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.
Today, it is found in Europe, Northern America and Asia.
Chives are relatively easy to raise in full sun in well-drained beds, where their purple spring flowers will attract bees and make a beautiful edible garnish.
Chives are a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plant, growing from 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 in) tall.
The bulbs are slender, conical, 2 to 3 cm (0.8 to 1.2 in) long and 1 cm (0.4 in) broad, and grow in dense clusters from the roots.
The scapes (or stems) are hollow and tubular, up to 50 cm (20 in) long and 2 to 3 mm (0.08 to 0.12 in) across, with a soft texture, although, prior to the emergence of a flower, they may appear stiffer than usual.
The grass-like leaves, which are shorter than the scapes, are also hollow and tubular, or terete, (round in cross-section).
The flowers are pale purple, and star-shaped with six petals, 1 to 2 cm (0.4 to 0.8 in) wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence of 10-30 together; before opening, the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract.
The seeds are produced in a small, three-valved capsule, maturing in summer. They characteristically produce only a few seeds.
Chives may be propagated by planting seeds but are cultivated more commonly by dividing the clumps and planting the tiny bulbs.
Chives are cultivated both for their culinary uses and their ornamental value.
There are 30 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of chives.
Chives are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, Riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. They are also a good source of thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus and zinc.
The health benefits of chives include eye health, preventing cataracts, keeping skin clean and healthy, boost the immune system, supporting cardiovascular health, lowering blood pressure, preventing anemia, and relieving inflammation. Other benefits includes improving bone health, supporting kidney function, managing type 2 diabetes, protect against birth defects, preventing cancer, aiding weight loss and improving digestion.
They are widely used in Swedish and French cuisine, and are one of the fines herbes of the classical kitchen.
It is an ingredient in tvorog, a type of soft cheese enjoyed in Russia and Poland.
The violet flowers are often used in ornamental dry bouquets. The flowers are also edible and are used in salads, or used to make Blossom vinegars.
Chives was mentioned in 80 AD by Marcus Valerius Martialis in his “Epigrams” : He who bears chives on his breathe, Is safe from being kissed to death.
Romani have used chives in fortune telling. Bunches of dried chives hung around a house were believed to ward off disease and evil.
In the 19th century, Dutch farmers fed cattle on the herb to give a different taste to milk.
The plant provides a great deal of nectar for pollinators. It was rated in the top 10 for most nectar production (nectar per unit cover per year) in a UK plants survey conducted by the AgriLand project which is supported by the UK Insect Pollinators Initiative.