Karen Atkins designs formal European, pioneer, colonial, Victorian and cottage gardens. Areas of focus include parterres, knot, embroidery, cutting, estate, vegetable and chicken-keeping gardens. See more at propergardens.com.

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Chives: Edible, Pretty and Easy to Grow
by Karen Atkins       #Edibles   #Herbs   #Recipes

Chive flowers are gorgeous in mass  plantings, as hedges or borders. They are  also edible and stunning in salads. (Elena Elissiva/Dreamstime.com)

When I was a young, inexperienced gardener, I had the fortune of stumbling upon Martha Stewart’s Gardening. The title was deceptively simple, as the book contained intricate herb gardens and rose gardens, which stretched hundreds of feet. But the book became dog-eared as I shamelessly copied loads of ideas she had.

One of the most beautiful, easy and inexpensive notions she shared in that volume was using chives to edge vegetable gardens. The border looked so lush in her photos, and I learned later that in addition to producing masses of lilac star-shaped, edible flowers, chives repel bad bugs and attract beneficial bees. What more could you ask of an herb?

Cooking with Chives

Chive and Bleu Cheese Dressing

I found this recipe long ago, in Gourmet magazine. It is a keeper. The only difference here is that I’ve doubled it. You will be glad I did, since it keeps for a week in the refrigerator. This dressing is so sharp and alive. It is wonderful on a typical mixed salad. Add bacon and it is off the chain! It also serves as a gorgeous sauce over warm or chilled beef tenderloin, a pretty and elegant sauce. The recipe already contains black pepper, but it really sets the flavor off if you also grind fresh, cracked pepper over top of the sauce just before serving it.


1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 small garlic cloves, minced
½ cup fresh parsley leaves
4 tablespoons finely chopped chives
4 ounces crumbled, firm bleu cheese
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper


Combine buttermilk, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and garlic in the blender and pulse until smooth. Add parsley and pulse until chopped. Then add the cheese and only pulse a few times. You want the cheese to stay chunky. Stir in the chopped chives and pepper at the last minute, before serving. After pouring dressing, grind fresh, cracked pepper over your dish.

Cream of Cauliflower and Chive Soup

Cream of cauliflower and chive soup. (Sarmis/Dreamstime.com)

This soup is easy, fast, crazy inexpensive and pretty enough to serve to the fussiest dinner party guests. You can make it a few days in advance without the half and half, salt, pepper and chives. Then, just reheat it until it is warmed through, adding the half and half, salt, pepper and chives just before serving. What more could you ask of a soup?


3 tablespoons of butter
2 small heads of cauliflower, chopped, including the stem (about 8 cups)
6 ¾ cups of chicken broth
1 cup of half and half
2 cups chopped chives
2 or 3 whole, long chives per bowl (for garnish)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper


Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven. Toss in the chopped cauliflower head and stems and stir for a few minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook over medium heat until it boils. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool, so that you can handle it easily. Get out a large bowl and set it by the blender. Next blend the soup in batches. When it is completely smooth, transfer from the blender to the bowl. When the entire mixture has been blended, transfer it back into the pot. At this point, you can either reheat the soup or refrigerate it and finish it later. To finish the soup, bring the mixture back up to a simmer, then add the half and half, salt and pepper. At the last minute, stir in the chives. Garnish with a few long chives.

Make a chive “broom” by tying a long bunch of chives into a knot. Dunk the ends in warm, melted butter and drag it across fresh lobster or steamed vegetables. Martha Stewart has actually affixed small sticks to make them look like miniature brooms. (Smoczyslaw/Dreamstime.com)

Growing Chives

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) thrive in well-draining, but fertile soil. A mixture of sand and manure or other organic material works well. If your soil is already good, but not particularly well-draining, you can also just mound it up, which will make it drain faster.

Sow seeds ¼ inch deep. (You can also plant transplants from the garden center.) When thinning seedlings, aim for final spacing of 4-6 inches in every direction. Chives can be harvested four times a year and should be cut just an inch or two above the base. The flavor of many herbs intensifies after drying but chives actually lose a lot of flavor. Use them fresh, or freeze them immediately.


A version of this article appeared in a March/April 2015 print editions of State-by-State Gardening.


Posted: 04/19/18   RSS | Print


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