Chives Weather the North Country

 

To find a hardy kitchen herb that will survive a North Country winter, you need look no further than Chives.

Chives seedlings in 2012

Chives seedlings in 2012

Chives have a sweet, mild onion flavor. The flowers can be used to make pink vinegar and the leaves are a wonderful ingredient in many dishes.

Chives grow to a height of 12 to 18 inches and have hollow grass-like leaves about 1/8 of an inch in diameter.  In very early spring of United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) Zone 3, pink bulbs will appear and within days, burst into a globe shaped flowers about 1 inch in diameter.

You can grow Chives in your herb garden in three ways. You can germinate seeds indoors and then transplant your seedlings into your garden. Or, you can purchase a plant from your garden center.

The third way to grow Chives is to receive a clump of Chives from a gardener friend. Chives grow so easily and abundantly, they should be divided every few years to keep them healthy. A friend may give your part of her clump of Chives to start you off. 

Harvesting Chives is as easy as growing them.

You simply take a pair of scissors or pruning snips and cut off pieces as needed.  I go into the garden and snip off an eight inch long bunch about the width that can fit between my thumb and first finger. I retire to the kitchen and give the Chives and quick rinse and pat dry. I hold the bunch in my left hand and the scissors in my right hand.  I then snip off pieces from the bunch about ¼ of an inch long.

Chives in bloom 2013

Chives in bloom 2013

Chives are preserved by freezing. You can use them in your cooking in the spring, summer and fall. For the winter, harvest what you did not use and put the pieces in a small, labeled freezer container. Because you have pre-cut the Chives, they will be very easy to add to any dish during the winter months.

Not many culinary herbs can survive cold winters but Chives are a perennial that survives winters in USDA Zone 3. The appearance of the green shoots of Chives, after the cold and wet end of a North Country winter, signals early spring gardening can start. Then, when you see the pink bulbs bursting into flowers, you know that serious summer gardening is now underway.