Types of chives:
Onion chives: have circular, hollow leaves and taste of onion. The flowers appear in summer and are mauve.
Garlic chives: the stems are flat and tough and taste mildly of garlic. The flowers appear like clusters of stars in summer and are white.
How to grow chives
Soil: best grown in rich, well drained soil for vigorous plant.
Position: chives prefer a sunny, open position.
Height: onion chives: 30cm, garlic chives: 40cm
Plant: Spring and Autumn. Chives can easily be grown from seed. Alternatively, divide the clumps of older plants in spring to rejuvenate the plant.
Harvest: Spring, summer and autumn. In winter the clumps will die down and then shoot again in spring. Pick off the flowers as they appear to keep the plant healthier (I can't do this because the flowers are too pretty). Snip the leaves off at the base of the plant.
When growing nearby, onion chives reputedly have a beneficial effect on carrots, parsley, apples and tomatoes.
Chives are a member of the allium family and have very similar health benefits to all onions, leeks and shallots.
Chives contain minerals such as potassium, calcium and iron and vitamins C, A, B1, B2, B3 and folate. They also contain antioxidants. Chives are beneficial to the immune system, the heart and can help with sleep and healthy eyes and skin.
The star shaped flowers of garlic chives look really pretty when planted on mass in the garden.
In the kitchen
Chives are probably best known for pairing well with eggs and cheese, so they are easy and delicious to add to omelettes, frittatas and quiches.
Chives also go nicely with mushrooms, garlic, bacon, fish, peas, potato and tomato. They can be added to any salad, particularly potato salads and coleslaw.
To maximise the flavour and the medicinal benefits, add them to cooking in the last five minutes.