A patch of chives delights all of the senses. The sight, smell, touch, and taste of chives even the sound of the hollow stems popping open when snapped in half, all are full of intense energy. Soft spines return vividly early in spring. Soon after, delicate buds form, their pale hoods veiling the soon-to-be orbs of dense purple spikes that burst open like supernovas. Edible, ornamental, and perennial, these hardy culinary clusters are an easy and essential part of every kitchen garden.
The smallest of all the Alliums, chives are considered by some to be the only species of Allium native to both the Old World and the New. The sulfur smell of the plant is said to repel garden insect pests while the flowers attract beneficial pollinators. This clumping onion survives winter in the Northeast and often blooms in early May. The green shoots are the first to come up in the spring, and can be used in warm winter tonic to ward off cool days. Be sure to let your chives flower though; they are a wonderful, oniony edible flower.