"He who bears chives on his breath
Is safe from being kissed to death."

--Martial's Epigrams
(80 AD)

"For everyone doing rustic food, there are others out there braiding chives."
--Joyce Goldstein

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(Allium schoenoprasum)

Called ciboulette or civette in French and schnittlauch in German (civit or sweth in middle English stories), chives are a dwarfed onion relative with a delicate peppery taste. They are actually a native of Northern Europe and were spread by the Romans, but were not cultivated until the Middle Ages--though they were commonly used in cookery from earliest times. They were listed by Charlemagne in his 812 AD Capitulare de Vilis.

Chives are an evergreen perennial with round, hollow, rush-like leaves. It's the sulfer compounds in them that give them both their flavor...and their antibiotic properties.

They grow in clumps in a kitchen garden--and should be clipped to within an inch of the earth, as you need them. Don't strafe the whole clump straight across or you'll kill the whole plant. Also, don't fail to harvest and use the purple flower in salads--or float them on soups for dramatic effect. Excellent!