Tucked into pockets of the garden are tufts of blooming chive plants. Topped with anime globes of bright lavender, the slender stems sway in the slightest breeze, yet are tough enough to survive Zone 4 winters and sufficiently powerful to repel voracious deer. I was gifted with a shovelful of chives by my dearest friend, Sandy, during the Reagan years. Flourishing, the blooms burst forth in rainy May and share their color with the garden for many weeks.
Chives are the smallest member of the allium family, better known as onions. After the flush of blooms, a military haircut gives the chive plant opportunity to regrow the spikes, resulting in a slimmer, more tender herb for food preparation to add a delicate onion flavor. It is important to prune the herb after the bloom, or seeds set. The chive plant will then reproduce like a crazed rabbit clan and that is no chive! It can also be started by seed and if nurtured will mature into a hardy herb that will bestow bounteously upon you. Chives probably have soil and water preferences, but they are remarkably low maintenance. Mature plants need very little care and will survive harsh winter, spring rains and summer heat with great aplomb.
Chives can be harvested by snipping the stems at the base and after a gentle wash, stored in the refrigerator. They will remain fairly nice for a week or so, stored upright in a glass of water or wrapped in a damp towel. Fresh chives can also be chopped and frozen for future use, but chives do not dry well. Adding a hint of oniony flavor, chives give a little sass to salads, potatoes, eggs and soups. To add a handful of freshly chopped chives to a creamy potato salad adds color, flavor and the satisfaction of using home grown goodness in a meal.
The Return of the Gift
The gift came full circle as I carried a shovelful of chives from my garden to Sandys’ recently purchased home. After weathering an unexpected divorce, creating a garden; a space of beauty and tranquility was one of the first items on the agenda of her new life. Planting herbs, perennials, a few berry bushes and of course the chives together was a time of friendship for me, and hopefully, of healing for her. There is something about friends with hands in the dirt that creates a remarkable serenity.
That long ago gift of chives blooms as faithfully in my garden as the gift of her friendship warms my heart.
Do you have a gift hidden in your garden or have you been blessed with a gift that grows in your life?
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