Chives, scientific name
Allium schoenoprasum, is an edible species of
Allium genus. Its close relatives include the garlic, shallot,
leek, scallion, and Chinese onion.
A perennial plant, it is widespread in nature across much of Europe,
Asia, and North America.
A. schoenoprasum is the only species of
Allium native to both the New
and the Old Worlds.
Chives are a commonly used herb and can be found in grocery stores or
grown in home gardens. In culinary use, the scapes and the unopened,
immature flower buds are diced and used as an ingredient for fish,
potatoes, soups, and other dishes. The edible flowers can be used in
Chives have insect-repelling properties that can be used
in gardens to control pests.
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
3 Distribution and habitat
4.1 Culinary arts
4.2 Uses in plant cultivation
6 History and cultural importance
8 External links
Chives are a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plant, growing to
30–50 cm (12–20 in) tall. The bulbs are slender,
conical, 2–3 cm (3⁄4–1 1⁄4 in) long and
1 cm (1⁄2 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 2–3 mm (1⁄16–1⁄8 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) which distinguishes it at a glance from
garlic chives (
Allium tuberosum). The flowers are pale purple, and
star-shaped with six petals, 1–2 cm (1⁄2–3⁄4 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. The
herb flowers from April to May in the southern parts of its habitat
zones and in June in the northern parts.
Chives are the only species of
Allium native to both the New and the
Old Worlds. Sometimes, the plants found in North America are
classified as A. schoenoprasum var. sibiricum, although this is
disputed. Differences between specimens are significant. One example
was found in northern
Maine growing solitary, instead of in clumps,
also exhibiting dingy grey flowers.
Although chives are repulsive to insects in general, due to their
sulfur compounds, their flowers attract bees, and they are at times
kept to increase desired insect life.
It was formerly described by the Swedish botanist
Carl Linnaeus in his
seminal publication 'Species Plantarum' in 1753, on page 301.
The name of the species derives from the Greek σχοίνος,
skhoínos (sedge or rush) and πράσον, práson (leek). Its
English name, chives, derives from the French word cive, from cepa,
Latin word for onion. In the Middle Ages, it was known as
It has 2 known subspecies;
Allium schoenoprasum subsp. gredense (Rivas
Goday) Rivas Mart., Fern.Gonz.& Sánchez Mata and Allium
schoenoprasum subsp. latiorifolium (Pau) Rivas Mart., Fern.Gonz.&
Distribution and habitat
Chives are native to temperate areas of Europe, Asia and North
It is found in Asia within the Caucasus (in Armenia,
Georgia), also in China, Iran, Iraq,
Japan (within the provinces of
Hokkaido and Honshu), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan,
Russian Federation (within the provinces of Kamchatka, Khabarovsk, and
Siberia and Turkey.
In middle Europe, it is found within Austria, the Czech Republic,
Germany, the Netherlands,
Poland and Switzerland. In northern Europe,
in Denmark, Finland, Norway,
Sweden and the United Kingdom. In
southeastern Europe, within Bulgaria, Greece,
Italy and Romania. It is
also found in southwestern Europe, in France,
Portugal and Spain.
In Northern America, it is found in
Canada (within the provinces of
Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland,
Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec,
Saskatchewan and Yukon
), in the United States (with the states of Alaska, Colorado,
Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia,
Wisconsin and Wyoming).
Chives are grown for their scapes and leaves, which are used for
culinary purposes as a flavoring herb, and provide a somewhat milder
flavor than those of other
Chives have a wide variety of culinary uses, such as in traditional
dishes in France, Sweden, and elsewhere. In his 1806 book Attempt
at a Flora (Försök til en flora), Retzius describes how chives are
used with pancakes, soups, fish, and sandwiches. They are also an
ingredient of the gräddfil sauce with the traditional herring dish
served at Swedish midsummer celebrations. The flowers may also be used
to garnish dishes. In
Poland and Germany, chives are served with
Chives are one of the fines herbes of French cuisine,
the others being tarragon, chervil and parsley.
Chives can be found
fresh at most markets year-round, making them readily available; they
can also be dry-frozen without much impairment to the taste, giving
home growers the opportunity to store large quantities harvested from
their own gardens.
Uses in plant cultivation
Retzius also describes how farmers would plant chives between the
rocks making up the borders of their flowerbeds, to keep the plants
free from pests (such as Japanese beetles). The growing plant
repels unwanted insect life, and the juice of the leaves can be used
for the same purpose, as well as fighting fungal infections, mildew,
The medicinal properties of chives are similar to those of garlic, but
weaker; the faint effects in comparison with garlic are probably the
main reason for their limited use as a medicinal herb. They also have
mild stimulant, diuretic, and antiseptic properties. As chives are
usually served in small amounts and never as the main dish, negative
effects are rarely encountered, although digestive problems may occur
Chives are also rich in vitamins A and C, contain trace amounts of
sulfur, and are rich in calcium and iron.
Chives are cultivated both for their culinary uses and their
ornamental value; 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 thrive in well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, with a pH
of 6-7 and full sun. They can be grown from seed and mature in
summer, or early the following spring. Typically, chives need to be
germinated at a temperature of 15 to 20 °C (60-70 °F) and
kept moist. They can also be planted under a cloche or germinated
indoors in cooler climates, then planted out later. After at least
four weeks, the young shoots should be ready to be planted out. They
are also easily propagated by division.
In cold regions, chives die back to the underground bulbs in winter,
with the new leaves appearing in early spring.
Chives starting to look
old can be cut back to about 2–5 cm. When harvesting, the
needed number of stalks should be cut to the base. During the
growing season, the plant continually regrows leaves, allowing for a
Chives are susceptible to damage by leek moth larvae, which bore into
the leaves or bulbs of the plant.
History and cultural importance
Chives have been cultivated in Europe since the
Middle Ages (fifth
until the 15th centuries), although their usage dates back 5000
years. They were sometimes referred to as "rush leeks".
It was mentioned in 80 A.D. by
Marcus Valerius Martialis
Marcus Valerius Martialis in his
He who bears chives on his breathe, Is safe from being kissed to
The Romans believed chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a
sore throat. They believed eating chives could increase blood pressure
and act as a diuretic.
Romani have used chives in fortune telling. Bunches of dried
chives hung around a house were believed to ward off disease and
In the 19th century, Dutch farmers fed cattle on the herb to give a
different taste to milk.
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Allium schoenoprasum L. is an accepted name". 23 March 2012.
theplantlist.org. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
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Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the
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Allium schoenoprasum in Flora of
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Allium schoenoprasum -
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botanical Garden (Missouri)
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The facts mentioned on the site apply to Sweden, which is in the
northern part of the habitat zone.
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- Gräslök". nrm.se.
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^ "Chives". sallys-place.com.
Wikiversity has bloom time data for
Allium schoenoprasum on the Bloom
Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on
Media related to
Allium schoenoprasum at Wikimedia Commons
Mrs. Grieve's "A Modern Herbal" @ Botanical.com
"Chive". Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). 1911.
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