Chives (Alium fistulosum & Allium schoenoprasum) is a perenial aromatic and culinary herb that belongs to the Allium family. Usually the slender leaves are use raw or cooked, snipped finely to enhance with a delicate flavor the taste of many dishes. The plants grow to about 12 inches and have lovely flowers that can be used as a decorative touch on serving platters or plates. English is an interesting language and I should be remiss if I did not point out that chive (singular) refers to the plant and chives (plural) is always used when discussing the culinary herb.
Common name: Chives
Scientific name: Allium schoenoprasum.
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There are different varieties
Chives belong to a family of plants that includes around 500 plants from which we mostly know onion, green onions, leeks, garlic and shallots. The varieties of chives we use most frequently are :
- Garlic chives also known as Chinese chives. They have flatter and broader leaves. Taste a little more like garlic. They will reward you with beautiful whites flowers near September.
- Chives herbs (the most commonly grown in our homes and gardens, and the one we use when referring to the shorten reference: chives.
Why should you consider cooking with chives?
It is an indispensable herb in fine cooking. It has a flavor that is milder and more sophisticated than green onion, and it is so easy to grow, why would we want to avoid it.
- When buying chives: color should be a nice dark green, stems should be firm and the characteristic perfume of chives should emanate.
- Always snip the tender leaves with scissors as using a chopper tend to crush it and lessen the flavor.
- If you plan on adding it to a hot dish, you should add it at the end of cooking time to preserve its flavor.
How to use chives in cooking:
Fines herbes: a traditional French seasoning mix recipe is composed of parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon. It is a great companion for omelets, green salads, chicken or poached fish.
Flavored oils and vinegars : You can seep fresh chives in oil for a period of 2 weeks to perfume an otherwise ordinary oil. To perfume vinegar, heat wine or cider vinegar and pour it over slightly crushed leaves.
Green onions, shallots or leeks can be use as substitute for chives: However you should only use a substitute when you really cannot get the real thing, as there is nothing quite as delicate as the taste of chives.
How to preserve chives for later use?
- You can freeze chives very successfully. First wash and dry the leaves, then snip them and put them in small freezer bags.
- Drying chives is the least favorable means to preserve this herb as much of the flavor is lost in the process. Nothing will match the savor of fresh leaves. You can really have a pot of the plant in your kitchen and never run out of this wonderful condiment. If you need to preserve cut stems for a couple of days, it is better to keep them in the fridge, placed on a tray between two layers of damp paper towel.
Are dried chives equivalent to fresh? Absolutely not. Do not waste your money on that.
Health Benefits Of Chives
They are rich in beta carotene, and antioxidants (prevention of cardiovascular disease). They contain B vitamins, and a fair amount of vitamin C as well as mineral salts. However considering the small quantity that we eat often much less than an ounce, it does not really affect our well being. All I can recommend is that you grow some chives and eat them as often as you can. The good thing is that since they do not have any calories to speak of so you can pile them on as much as you wish. So do yourself a favor and use more chives and less salt. In addition they are anti-bacterial and fungicidal, they stimulate appetite and digestion, they are diuretic and stimulate blood circulation.
More than 5000 years ago the Chinese were already cultivating a plant similar to today’s chive that they used not only in cooking but also as a natural anti venom and to prevent hemorrhages. It was not until the 16th century and Marco Polo’s expeditions that it was introduced in Europe. Soon it became known as “appetites” for its appetite stimulating qualities. It first grew around the Mediterranean, but it’s easy adaptability made it a good traveler, and it spread to the rest of the world. In Holland, it was sown in the meadows, to add a little perfume to cow’s milk.
How To Grow Chives – Planting Chives
Harvesting can be done year round by cutting leaves as you need them.
Cut flower before they go to seed, if you plan on using them in your salads as they are delicious to eat.
Chives diseases and pests
Onion flies: leaves will fade and yellow, and the plant will grow slowly. To prevent onion flies you can use an organic insecticide on still healthy plants and remove those that are too far affected to be saved.
Rust: sometimes leaves will show orange spots. Remove these plants and grow a different species in this pot or spot. Choose a new location to grow a new chives plant.