Allium schoenoprasum is a perennial native to the Orient. They have been used as food for 5,000 years, first by the Chinese and then the Greeks. Marco Polo brought them to Western attention and Europeans began cultivating them in the 16th century. Colonials brought them to the New World. Chives were supposed to have magical powers, so the colonists hung them in their houses to protect themselves from diseases and evil spirits.