Chives are easy to grow, easy to harvest, and can be prolific producers while providing multiple benefits in the garden and landscape. (See my herb profile for growing and using chives in the garden)
Most Americans are introduced to the onion chive as a topping for a baked potato. Its distinct yet subtle flavor holds its own even when smothered in butter, cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits. This relationship between dairy and chives may have started in Holland back in the 19th century: it is believed that farmers intentionally fed cows chives to produce onion-flavored milk.
Chives are best as a fresh herb. Fold a pinch or three into scrambled eggs, snuggle a handful into a grilled cheese sandwich, and sprinkle on top of pasta salads, soups, and steamed vegetables. The lovely lilac-colored flowers are edible and offer the same subtle onion flavor when sprinkled in salads or added to spring rolls.
Dried chives are usually disappointing in flavor and texture; enjoy the herb when in season and try freezing for later use.
To preserve chives for winter’s use, put the chopped leaves in an ice cube tray, top with water or olive oil, freeze, and store in a bag or container.
Below are two delicious recipes using chives:
RECIPE: Chive Butter
I am sure that chives were created for the sole purpose of topping a big baked potato stuffed with butter, sour cream, and cheese. The problem is that the chives are long gone by the time you get to the bottom half of the spud. The solution is simple: blend 1- 3 Tbsp. of minced chives (toss in a few flower petals for color) into 1/2 cup of soft butter, form into a log and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and wax paper, and freeze for up to 6 months. Alternatively, spoon the softened chive butter into small silicone molds or ice cube trays, freeze and store the butter chips in a freezer bag. You can also add chopped parsley and chopped rosemary to the butter. Toss the chive butter on hot veggies, steak, chicken, and fish.
RECIPE: Chive Blossoms Vinegar
Don’t toss those lovely lavender-pinkish flowers! They also have a delicate onion flavor and can be added to the Chive Butter, tossed into salads, or added to spring rolls. (It’s always fun to serve edible flowers to people who are not accustomed to eating flowers!) But my favorite use is to make Chive Blossoms Vinegar:
- Cut chive flowers just as they are beginning to bloom. You will need 2-3 cups of flowers. Leaves can be cut and added to fill out the amount or to add a stronger flavor to the vinegar. No need to wash it unless dirty. Pat dry after washing.
- Stuff blossoms into a glass container (I use Mason quart or pint jars). The more flowers you use, the stronger the flavor.
- Fill with white wine vinegar or the sweeter rice vinegar (my preference). Avoid using distilled white vinegar since its harshness will interfere with the delicate flavor of the chive. Be sure to cover all flowers.
- Use a plastic lid. Metal lids react with the vinegar and affect the flavor and color. No plastic lids? Place a piece of wax paper or plastic between the jar and the metal lid.
- Keep in view for a week and shake it each day. The flowers will tint the vinegar a lovely pinkish color. Strain when ready to use. Store in your cupboard or in the fridge for longer shelf life. The color will fade over several months’ time but it likely won’t last long enough for you to notice!
How to Use Chive Blossom Vinegar
Because of its subtle flavor, it’s best on its own. Sprinkle on cucumber salad, fresh tomato slices, steamed veggies, fish, or a splash or two in a vegetable soup at the time of serving.
Decanted into a pretty bottle and corked, it makes a unique present from your garden.