How to grow Herbs - Chives (easy & productive)
A Superfood that looks great in the flower border too.
Growing food in your garden is a labour of love. It can take a deal of hard work and often ends up feeding pests as much as you and your family.
So if I told you there is a range of nutritious foods that have few pests and that you can plant and forget, you’d be interested, right?
And if I told you they have beautiful flowers, attract bees, and there are some for almost any spot in your garden, you’d be asking where to get them, yes?
The truth is, you probably already have some. But they are stuck in a tiny area squashed in so tight they can’t flourish. They grow so slowly that they rarely get used.
Herbs often get overlooked as food in their own right because they are used to add flavour.
But they are jam-packed with micronutrients that are generally missing from fast-grown, high water content leaves at the supermarket.
Herbs are nutrient-dense, giving their benefits for very few calories.
Chives - Onions without the streaming eyes!
As an example, take a look at chives. This herb is from the onion family, but instead of tearing up the plant and using the bulb, you use the fresh green leaves. Cut them off a couple of inches above the ground, and they will quickly come back so you can harvest some more.
They get sold in the supermarket squashed up in tiny pots producing equally tiny plants. Give them some room, however, and you have a different story. They grow to over 2 feet tall and produce beautiful mauve flower heads that bees love.
Best of all, they are perennial, unlike onions, so they will come back year after year.
Food Use — When used fresh, the flavour is a bright delicate onion taste similar to salad onions.
I like to use it liberally mixed with leaves, such as spinach, as a salad ingredient or added at the end of cooking to Spanish omelettes or quiches. You can also juice it in your favourite recipes.
Chives can be used instead of onions in many recipes; just add them near the end of cooking rather than at the beginning.
The flowers are also edible if you can bear to take them away from the bees.
Nutrition — Chives are packed with a host of healthy vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds. These include vitamins A, C, K, Folate, Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium.
They have been shown to help with sleep and mood, as well as having antibacterial and antifungal properties.
How to Grow — Chives are incredibly easy to grow. Buy one of those pots from the supermarket, divide it roughly in four, and plant in your flower border where they will come back year after year. You can also grow from seed, although it will be a year before you see much harvest this way.
Cutting will reduce the flowers you get, so I like to save a couple of patches and allow them to flower, just for the tremendous number of bees they attract.
Chives like plenty of sun. They grow happily in most soils but do best if it’s slightly acidic. A mulch of composting leaves will help with that. Chives have few pests or diseases.
They can attract thrips, however, which should be rubbed off as soon as they are spotted. They look like little black aphids. I’ve never had any problem here in my northern UK garden.
Grow Yourself Healthy
The great thing about growing your own is that you can use way more in your dishes when you have loads available rather than just a tiny bunch, increasing all those health benefits.
You also get fresh produce for which you know the provenance. If, like me, you garden organically, you’ll know there are no chemicals used and that nature’s pollinators are supported.
Other great fresh herbs that are easy to grow include Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Marjoram, Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Mint, Tarragon, and Dill. Each has its own interesting chemical constituents and health-giving benefits.
Why not check out some other herbs for yourself? Or pop back over the next couple of weeks and see which ones I’ve added.