When spring makes an appearance, I become giddy. Not only does this signal an end to snow and freezing temperatures, but it harkens the awakening of the garden. Fruit trees display their blossoms, shrubs begin to leaf out, and perennial herbs begin to rise up from the soil, full of promise. But one plant in particular has my attention… chives!
This noble herb is not only visually stunning with its lavender flowers that attract honey bees, but those tubular leaves are aromatic, releasing their fragrance when gently pressed. That aroma immediately conjures up images of baked potatoes split wide open with a generous pat of butter and a sprinkling of chives. And let’s not forget chive and onion dip with those bright flecks of green nestled amongst the mayonnaise and sour cream… destined for a potato chip.
This wonderful plant has the ability to produce from spring through early fall if treated correctly.
How to Harvest Chives
- For starters, have more than one chive plant. This allows one plant to grow while you harvest from the other.
- Gather all leaves and hold them at the top. Using a sharp pair of scissors (not only does this making harvesting easier, but it also prevents jagged cuts or tearing of the leaves), cut the leaves about 1″ above the soil surface.
- As a rule of thumb, allow the chives to get 10 – 14″ high, then harvest.
- When the chive begins to regrow its leave, you can then harvest from the other chive plant and then continue to alternate between plants for the rest of the growing season.
As a side note, I try to leave the flowering stalks behind. These flowering stalks are identifiable with a flower bud at the tip. These stalks tend to be more fibrous and not as tender as the chive leaves. The taller the flowering stalks, the more fibrous they are.
If you prefer, you can simply cut what you need for your immediate use. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week if placed in a plastic bag. Or you can place them in water, cut side down, and store in the refrigerator for approximately a week as well. Whichever way you harvest, be sure to rinse the leaves well in cold water. This will remove any dirt that is attached (typically watering the plant will cause soil to splash up on the leaves). Use this time to remove any bits of debris, such as small twigs or perhaps brown chives leaves.
For longer term storage, you can dehydrate them, cut them into small bits, and then place in a storage jar with a secure fitting lid. NOTE: it is much easier to handle the chives whole while dehydrating. Save the cutting after the chives are dried.
Another easy way to store them (and my favorite) is to cut the fresh leaves into small bits, mix with some good olive oil, place in small trays, and then freeze. After freezing, remove from the trays and place in a zip lock bag and store in the freezer. Containers that work well for freezing the chives and oil include ice-cube trays or ‘brownie bite’ trays. These individual cubes of chives and oil are wonderful additions to soups, stews, polenta, pasta, meat dishes, and sauces. Add more cubes if you desire a more pronounced chive flavor.
Whichever method you choose, chives will be at your fingertips, ready to enhance your meals. If you are preparing a dish that is served hot, simply dropped the frozen cube(s) directly into the pot. Stir to combine. These small cubes thaw quickly and should be tossed in towards the end of meal preparation.
Chives are a wonderful part of an herb garden. This perennial comes back year after year. Honey bees adore them. And with proper harvesting, you too, can be enjoying this tasty herb all season long as well as for months to come.