History of Chives

The first recorded use of chives occurred in China in about 3000 B.C.1 Some say that Marco Polo brought the idea to use chives back with him from the East. (Marco Polo is credited with many of these types of idea migrations.) In any case there is no real evidence for their common use until about the 1500s when they found their way into both dishes and herb gardens2.

Like many of our words for herbs, "chive" comes to us from the Latin and via Old French. It originally comes from cepa (Latin) and cive (Old French). The first recorded use for the world in English was around 1400. The botanical name actually comes from the Greek meaning, "reed-like leek"3.

Chives are native to both Europe and Asia. It grows wild all across both regions, but there are slight variations in different locations. A variety found in the Alps is the one nearest to what is generally cultivated today. Medieval gardeners often planted chives around the borders for both decoration and to ward off harmful insects. It was thought that hanging bunches of chives around a house could also ward off evil.

Over a century ago chives were used by Gypsies in fortune telling. One can imagine holding a bunch like pixy-sticks and casting them onto a bare wooden table, an ancient woman in a babushka pushing her finger through the arrangement and coming up with some predictions based on the configuration. However, today we do not know the exact procedure used.

In the west, chives came to be used in creams and sauces, and especially associated with potatoes. In Asia, we frequently find chives in soups.

Next Page: How to Cultivate Chives

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