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Allium schoenoprasum. Liliaceae (Alliaceae). A perennial herb grown for its leaves, which are used for flavouring. It is widely distributed in the wild, including China, India, Iran and Europe. The plant is tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions, the leaves dying back in the autumn and fresh leaves appearing the following spring. The normal season of availability is during the summer months, although this can be extended under protection. The fresh green leaves have a mild onion flavour and are used in salads, soups and stews. Although normally used fresh they can also be dried or deep-frozen for later use.

The crop can be grown on a wide range of soils but shady ones should be enriched with organic material. New plantings may be established from seed either sown in situ or transplanted at a spacing of 20-30cm square. A quicker method is to divide existing clumps during spring or autumn into groups of around five or six plants which are replanted at the same spacing. Depending on growing conditions plants should be divided in this way every three to four years. Harvesting by cutting leaves to just above ground level can be carried out during the growing season and may be extended through the winter months by replanting clumps into pots for transference to a heated greenhouse. Cloches may also be used to advance cropping in the early spring. ‘Dwarf’ is very compact; ‘Extra Fine Leaved’, with purple flowers, is much used for bunching. ‘Foresake’ is very ornamental as well as culinary; ‘Grolau’, with thick, dark green foliage, is highly regarded as a windowsill plant. Chives may be affected by rust.

CHINESE CHIVES (Chinese leeks, chibol). Allium tuberosum (Liliaceae). A perennial herb, up to 40cm tall, with a rhizomatous stem; the leaves are long and narrow, 15-30 x 0.3-0.6cm. This species has been cultivated for centuries in India and China. It is now widely grown throughout tropical Asia and in California. Although mainly grown in the tropics, plants will tolerate relatively low temperatures (15ºC) throughout the early growing season. Two main cultivars are grown, one for the blanched leaves and the other for the flowering scape, which may grow to 45cm high and is used as a flavouring. The leaves are blanched before the flowers open. Seeds are sown in rows 30cm apart and the seedlings thinned to about 15-20cm apart. Mature clumps are easily divided.

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