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Synonyms: chive garlic, rush leeks, civet

botanical name: Allium schoenoprasum



Chives are widespread and found in all of Europe, Asia and North America, and as far as the arctic regions. They stem presumably from Central Asia, where they have been used for several thousand years. They have been known in Europe as a seasoning plant since the Middle Ages.

The plant is cultivated today in all regions of the temperate zone. World trade with fresh chives is rather negligible. Only a small area in Germany is used for growing chives; they are grown for domestic use in many household gardens.


Imported chives reach us chiefly from France, Italy and Denmark. The Netherlands sell dried or freeze-dried chives.



Fresh chives are sold all year round. In the period from May to October they are cultivated outdoors; thereafter the plants are raised under glass. Fresh chives are also sold in small pots in many supermarkets.


Chives are suited for private herb gardens and can also be raised in a flower pot. In winter the plant dies back and then in spring it sprouts again. If you want to harvest your own chives all year, it is best to bring the plant indoors prior to the first frost. The leaves should be cut throughout the year so that no hard leaves develop.


Chives are also sold deep-frozen and as a dried seasoning, but the aroma of the dried leaves is decidedly less than that of fresh chives.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Chives are a perennial plant, but after 3-4 years the yield is no longer so great. Chives belong botanically to the Alliceae, although they were earlier classified as part of the lily family.

The plant grows to about 15-30 cm, but there are also varieties that can reach a height of 60 cm. Its tubular leaves are hollow and bare and stand upright.


Chives are differentiated into fine-, medium- and coarse-tube types. They all appear round or oval in cross-section. In the months June to August inflorescences develop with spherical, usually pink or violet blossoms. It is a lesser-known fact that the blossoms are also edible.


When chives are cut they smell like leeks and their taste is sharp, spicy and like onions. The taste is mild and more subtle than that of other allium varieties.



The characteristic scent and taste of chives is due to their content of allium oils. Chief among them, as with garlic, is allicin, which is at first odourless. When the tissue of the leaves is damaged, however, they react immediately with an enzyme that is also contained in chives, and substances that smell like leeks are formed: sulphinates and sulphides.


Saponines and large amounts of vitamin C are also found in chives.


100 g contain:

Energy (kcal)


Water (g)


Protein (g)


Carbohydrates (g)


Fat (g)


Retinol equivalents (RE) (µg)


Beta carotene (µg)


Vitamin B1 (µg)


Vitamin B2 (µg)


Vitamin B6 (µg)


Vitamin C (mg)


Nicotinamide (µg)


Sodium (mg)


Potassium (mg)


Calcium (mg)



Harmful substances

Large amounts of chives can irritate the stomach mucosa of sensitive persons.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

When bought, fresh chives should be green, clean and without any blossoms. The leaves should not be limp but rather crisp, and should have no yellow or broken tips.


Chives thrive best in a pot that stands in the sun or half-shade and is moist. The cut tubes will keep for several days in the refrigerator if they are put in fresh water or packed in a plastic bag. They also freeze well and can be used when still frozen.


Drying is of no use with chives, as they lose much of their aroma. Dried or freeze-dried goods should be stored, like other spices, dry in airtight containers and in the dark.


Presumed effect on health

Owing to the sharp taste and the allium oils they contain, chives presumably stimulate the appetite and the digestion. It can be assumed that they have an effect similar to that of garlic.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Chives are a universal seasoning and in many countries the best-known kitchen herb after parsley.

It is best to cut them in small rounds shortly before serving and to sprinkle them directly over the finished dish. They should never be cooked.


Chives go with practically everything that can also be seasoned with onions. They taste good with fish and meat dishes, potatoes, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables, particularly tomatoes. They are used also to flavour salads, soups, herb sauces, mayonnaise, cream cheese and curd cheese, or are eaten with butter as a simple spread.


Small vegetable packages can be tied together with blanched blades.


The fresh pink blossoms are good for adding colour to vinegar or for decorating salads.


Seasoning tip

Chives combine well with parsley, tarragon and chervil. They also harmonize with basil, garden cress, coriander, paprika or fennel.





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