The chive plant is a member of the onion family, and one of the most widely grown herbs in the home garden. Chive is a perennial with small bulbs, producing dark green, grass-like cylindrical hollow leaves. Chive is primarily used as a culinary herb, lending a mild onion-like flavor to foods.
How to Grow Chives Indoors
Both regular chives and garlic chives can be grown indoors in kitchen gardens, on windowsills, or under plant lights. Like many other herbs, chives respond very well to aeroponic and hydroponic growing methods which is why they are often included in herb kits for grow systems like the AeroGarden.
If you are growing chives for use as a kitchen herb be sure to purchase untreated seeds. Organic seeds are the safest bet. A lot of commercial seeds are treated with chemicals to prevent mold, fungus etc. You don’t want to eat chemicals, do you? You can find quality chive seeds here.
Sow chive seeds at room temperature (70-75F) in a bright window or under lights using pre-moistened, light potting soil, seed starting mix or mix of perlite and vermiculite. Space seeds 1 inch apart and cover lightly with soil or mix. Pre-moistened peat plugs or Jiffy® pellets also work well, just drop the seed into the pre-drilled holes. To hasten germination use a heat mat and propagation dome.
Chives will flower, growing clusters of pink or purple flowers. For culinary purposes, chive flower heads or inflorescences should be cut to promote growth and keep the foliage tender. Once chives flower the chive leaves will begin to lose their flavor, so snip those flowers before they bloom to retain good flavor.
When harvesting chives cut the leaves down, leaving about 2 inches for re-growth. Store what you don’t use immediately in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator – they will retain their crispness/freshness for about 7 days. Or, freeze your excess harvest in a plastic freezer storage bag where they will keep for a year or more.
Chive bulbs have a mild onion-like flavor and can be used in place of shallots or scallions (green onions) in cooking recipes. Chives have a delicate flavor and should always be added last. You can also split a chive bulb and rub the insides around a salad bowl to add flavor, similar to garlic cloves. Or add them raw to cream cheese spreads and salads.
Chives do not do well as a dried herb – dried chives don’t retain much flavor. However, if you freeze chives they will retain their color and flavor for quite some time (see above).
Traditional Medicinal Uses for Chives
Traditionally, chives have been used as an appetite stimulant and digestive aid. Chives are high in vitamin C and iron, and contain the highest potency when eaten fresh and raw.
Chives for Pest Control
Growing chives indoors among your other house plants may help with pest control. Many insects are repelled by the fragrance of chives, which acts as a natural pest control agent that is harmless to humans and pets. Grow chives as a deterrent for aphids and mildew, as well.