Chives

Chives grow usually in clusters; for that reason, they are usually referred to only in plural. Their taste reminds of onions or garlic, this last one is the case of Chinese chives.

Chives

(allium schoenoprassum)
LILIACEAE

 

Chives are related to garlic and onions, being the smallest plant in the family. Chives grow usually in clusters; for that reason, they are usually referred to only in plural.

The leaves are used to flavor many dishes and they are a herb common to many gardens and easy to find in grocery stores. The flowers can also be used.

Curious Facts about chives

Chives have been known since very early in history, but probably they were not cultivated until the Middle Ages.

Chives are grown for their leaves, which have a subtle onion flavor and are used in soups, salads, fish dishes, sandwiches, sauces and vegetable dishes. They are one of the French fines herbes, chervil, tarragon and parsley are the others.

They are the only species of the onion family which is native to both, Old and New, Worlds.

How to recognize chives

Chives have pretty clover-like light purple flowers and long tubular leaves, which can grow up to 2 ft (60 cm). The leaves are straight and hollow. The herb flowers from April to May or June. The seeds mature in the summer.

Chives are an easy to find herb; they are available fresh at most grocery stores year-round and also sold in plastic pots at some markets. Growing chives in home gardens is pretty straightforward.

How to use and store chives

Chives are best used fresh. Snipped leaves can be added to many dishes for flavor and color. Their distinctive mild onion like flavor enhances that of sour cream and cream cheese. Chives are also made into herb butters, and they are often used with scrambled eggs and potato salad.

Chives are used in sauces like remoulade or ravigote, also in herb butters. They are also an ingredient of the Swedish gräddfil sauce, served with herring. They can be sprinkled on soups, like vychisoisse and as garnish for a variety of salads.

The herb does not dry well but it can be frozen without affecting flavor, giving gardeners the chance to store large quantities harvested from their own kitchen garden.

How to grow chives

Chives require rich, well drained soil and plenty of sun. They thrive in the temperate regions of Europe and North America.

Chives can be germinated from seeds at 60-70° F (15-20° C) and they need to keep moist. If the climate is cold, they can be germinated indoors and planted out later, when the young shoots are four weeks old, or more. A trick to avoid this first step is planting out some of the pots found in markets.

The leaves die in the winter, but the bulbs remain and new leaves will appear come spring. When the plant starts looking old, it can be trimmed back to 1-2 in (2-5 cm); this is also the best length to harvest the leaves.

Cooking with chives

Cottage cheese or sour cream and chives are popular fillings for jacket potatoes or baked potatoes. They would enhance a chive potato salad or this three bean salad with rocket dressing. Because of their mild onion taste, chives are a popular garnish, try one of the vichyssoise, diabetic butternut squash soup or the cheesy broiled fish from Quick and Easy Dinner Recipes.

Chives flavored tortillas - Cook 4 grated potatoes for 2 minutes in boiling water, drain and mix with some chopped chives, 1 egg, 1 Tbs flour, 1 Tbs heavy cream, 2 Tbs grated cheese. Shape into circles and fry in olive oil.

Chives substitution - if a recipe calls for chives and you don't have them, substitute 1 Tbs chopped fresh chives with:

  • 1 Tbs chopped green tops from green onions or scallions
  • 1 Tbs chopped garlic chives - garlic flavor
  • 1 Tbs chopped Chinese garlic stems - not only garlic flavor but crunch also
  • 3 Tbs chopped dried chives - sorry, not so flavorful.

Cooking your way with chives

Prepare your own herb cheese by rolling a cilinder of goat cheese on chopped chives.

To prepare scrambled eggs with chives, beat 2 eggs and 1 Tbs milk; add 1-2 tsp chopped chives. Heat 1 Tbs butter in a stainless steel pan until it melts and starts bubbling, set heat to low. Add the eggs; scrape the bottom every minute or so until they are thick and creamy. Serve on toasted buttered bread.

allium schoenoprassum: chives - French ciboulette - German schnittlauch - Italian cipollina - Spanish cebollino.