Chives are a perennial member of the Onion family and are native to North America and Eurasia. Onion chives, which have tubular leaves similar to green onions and lavender flowers, are commonly available as seedlings in garden centers, along with garlic chives, with flat, grass-type leaves with white flowers. Chives are usually used in cooking or as a garnish on baked potatoes in the United States.
In other countries, this ancient herb is a staple in daily cuisine and frequently used for its health benefits and its healing powers.
Chives are easy to grow from seedlings or seed. In South Texas, seeds can be started now inside a sunny window and transplanted as temperatures begin to cool in mid-October. Or, you can frequently find transplants of both onion chives and garlic chives in garden centers. They prefer well drained, rich soils. If planting in the ground, you may want to mulch the bed to help retain soil moisture during summer.
In the Rio Grande Valley, chives need a bit of relief from afternoon sun if you would like to plant them in the ground. They can be used as an edging along a flower bed that is somewhat protected from the western sun. Chives are excellent in containers and perform well if divided every three to four years.
Add chives to herbal butters, deviled eggs, cottage cheese, baked potatoes, or add to a soup in the last three minutes of cooking. Do not cook for more than a few minutes, as this reduces flavor and health benefits. Leaves and flowers can be enjoyed in cooking or fresh in salads. If you have an abundance of chives, you may freeze them in ice cubes to save for a future cooking opportunity.
Chives are a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, copper and manganese, along with vitamins A and C. They also have good amounts of thiamin, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, riboflavin and Vitamin K. Like other members of the Onion family, chives have antioxidants that destroy cancer cells, help to control blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol. Chives also contain anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties with a wide range of health benefits.
Chives are available today at the Growing Growers Farmers Market, both as fresh cut and ready to plant. This market is located in McAllen’s Firemen’s Park, under the pavilion, on the corner of First Street and Business 83 in McAllen. This farmers market is open from 9 a.m. to noon, every Saturday, year round, with a wide variety of locally grown fruits, herbs, and vegetables, as well as, grass-fed beef, baked goods and natural skin care products.
Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. Listen to her gardening radio show at 710 KURV Radio every Saturday, 7:00 to 9:00 a.m., or contact her at [email protected]