Typical of chives (Allium schoenoprasum), also known as rush or grass leek, are its slender, tubular and smooth stalks, up to 30 cm high, which are similar to rushes. Chives can develop their aroma best fresh and contain a lot of vitamin C. But what if the leek is in bloom, is it still edible or maybe even poisonous?

Chives for every taste

Chives come in different varieties, which differ in the thickness of their stalks, flower color and taste. Depending on the variety, the stalks are fine, medium or coarse-tube. The spherical inflorescences can be white, intensely pink or purple in color and the taste from mild to spicy.

Edible parts

Chives belong to the same plant family as onions, leeks and the like, which is noticeable in their taste and aroma. The stalks are not only edible when they are juicy.

  • Edible culms, flowers and buds
  • Straws have a strong smell of onions, but are milder
  • Depending on the variety, a fine or spicy-fresh aroma
  • The older the stalks, the sharper they become
  • Flowers are also rich in vitamins
  • Taste lighter and finer than leeks
  • Combination of light sweetness and spicy heat

The flower outperforms the stalks in terms of heat and flavor many times over. Their aroma is most intense when harvested early in the morning. The buds are inlaid, a good substitute for capers.

Tip:  The taste of the flowers may not be for everyone, but they definitely work as an edible decoration.

Harvest and flowering period

Harvest time for Allium schoenoprasum is basically all year round, but best before flowering, because once the flowers are there, the aroma of the leek suffers. The time of day also affects the aroma.

  • Best time of day to harvest, early in the morning
  • Aroma and essential oil content, then the highest
  • Cut the stalks two to three inches above the ground
  • Split shoots, cut off above the branch
  • Both stalks are preserved in this way
  • Leek blooms from late April to early June
  • Harvest time preferably before seed formation
  • Do not cut randomly, but thin out the eyelid
  • Chives shouldn’t be left unharvested for long

The best time to harvest the flowers is also in the morning. They taste best freshly opened. If they have already set seeds, the taste will decrease. They can be eaten raw, cooked or used as an edible decoration. Before consumption, shake possible insects out of the flowers or put them in cold water for a moment.

What if the leek blooms?

The flower buds form at the ends of the stalks. Once they have risen, it is basically still edible, but much firmer and woodier and also much more bitter than it was before flowering. Many even find it inedible.
This is because the plant now puts more strength into flower and seed formation than into the stems. The flower practically affects their taste. This has no effect on the other stalks that are not in bloom. It is best to use only flowerless stems and only the flowers of the lignified ones.

Tip: Many people believe that the flowers on chives are poisonous. But that is not the case, on the contrary, they are tasty and versatile.

Can the flower formation be avoided?

Solid and woody stems can be avoided by preventing flowers from forming. You can do this by cutting back the stalks regularly and not leaving them unharvested for a long time. They are harvested before they can bloom. With a regular cut, it is important to pay attention to appropriate fertilization, because chives are so-called heavy consumers. If the harvest is particularly plentiful, the leeks can be preserved without any problems.

Shelf life of fresh chives

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), like most herbs and vegetables, are best used fresh. However, they do not keep that long when fresh, usually only a few days. You can wrap it in bunches in damp kitchen paper, put it in lockable containers and then store it in the fridge’s vegetable compartment. Packaged in this way, the leek can be kept for around five to ten days. Or you put it in a glass of water, whereby the stalks turn yellow relatively quickly with this method.

Preserve for longer storage

Freezing is a great way to preserve these leeks for a longer period of time. After washing the straws and patting them dry with kitchen paper, cut them into ready-to-use small rolls with sharp scissors. Then you fill the cut stalks in freezer bags or with a little water in ice cube containers and put the whole thing in the freezer. Frozen chives can be kept for up to ten months without losing much of their taste.

An alternative to freezing is soaking in salt, vinegar or oil. When placed in salt, it can be used to make a delicious herbal salt. You can make your own creations with different herbs, for example parsley, basil, dill or tarragon. Another possibility is soaking in oil or vinegar in combination with different spices, depending on your personal taste. It is important to ensure that the herb is always completely covered with oil or vinegar. Chives vinegar can be stored in the refrigerator and chives oil in a dry and dark place.

Tip:  Drying as a preservation method is not suitable for chives. After that, it would look more like dried hay than leeks.

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