Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
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Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are the smallest species of the onion family Alliaceae, native to Europe, Asia and North America. They are referred to only in the plural, because they grow in clumps rather than as individual plants. Allium schoenoprasum is also the only species of Allium native to both the New and the Old World.
Its species name derives from the Greek skhoinos (sedge) and prason (onion). Its English name, chive, derives from the French word cive, which was derived from cepa, the Latin word for onion.
Culinary uses for chives involve shredding its leaves (straws) for use as condiment for fish, potatoes and soups. Because of this, it is a common household herb, frequent in gardens as well as in grocery stores. It also has insect-repelling properties which can be used in gardens to control pests.
The chive is a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plant, growing to 30-50 cm tall. The bulbs are slender conical, 2-3 cm long and 1 cm broad, and grow in dense clusters from the roots. The leaves are hollow tubular, up to 50 cm long, and 2-3 mm in diameter, with a soft texture, although, prior to the emergence of a flower from a leaf, it may appear stiffer than usual. The flowers are pale purple, star-shaped with six tepals, 1-2 cm wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence of 10-30 together; before opening, the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract. The seeds are produced in a small three-valved capsule, maturing in summer. The herb flowers from April to May in the southern parts of its habitat zones and in June in the northern parts.
Chives are the only species of Allium native to both the Old World and New. Sometimes, the plants found in North America are classified as A. schoenoprasum var. sibiricum, although this is disputed. There have been significant differences among specimens: one example was found in northern Maine growing solitary, instead of in clumps, also exhibiting dingy grey flowers.
Albeit repulsive to insects in general, due to its sulfur compounds, its flowers are attractive to bees, and it is sometimes kept to increase desired insect life.
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