Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) belongs to the same plant family as onions, garlic, shallots and leeks. It has long hollow grass equations stems that grow up to 25 cm. long. They usually grow in clusters. Everything on the chive can be eaten, but most common is eating the stems that have a very tasty onion taste. When it’s also very easy to grow, it’s no wonder that it has found its way into most Norwegian herbs. Many who do not grow anything else often have a bunch of chives standing in bed outside the kitchen door.
History and Origin
The first registered use of chives occurred in China for approx. 5000 years ago. Some claim that it was Marko Polo who brought the chive from China.
In our part of the world there is no registered use of the herb until the 1500’s when it found its way into our dishes through the many herb gardens.
Since it can grow wild throughout Europe, there are good opportunities it was used for cooking long before it was registered in herb gardens. A variation that grows wild in the alps is the closest found of the plant we are cultivating today. In the Middle Ages, gardeners often planted chives around the boundaries for both decoration and to avert harmful insects.
It was thought that hanging bunches of chives around a house could avert evil spirits. A few centuries ago, chives was used in the divination of gypsies.
In the west, chives have traditionally been used most in creams and sauces, and especially in the case of potatoes. In Asia it has been more common to use it in soups.
How to grow chives
Chives are a very simple herb to grow, some seeds in a pot or in a corner of a herb garden give you rich access to an herb suitable for soups, dips and garnishes. Chives like sunny areas but tolerate areas with a little shade. It likes a nutritiously drained soil. Even if they like being kept wet, they tolerate dry conditions for limited periods of time.
Plant after all danger of frost is over and sprinkle a layer of soil over. If you choose to grow them indoors in pots, make sure that they have at least 5 hours of sunlight every day, turning so they get even with light. In artificial light, it should have 14 hours of light.
Chives are a perennial plant, it grows and sets new sprouts year after year. It tends to cling together and divide it every other year. The best time to divide them is at the end of the growing season, divide it with a hard hand across and make sure to get the most of the roots. Plant the other half again, it can withstand wintering well in the garden in most climates.
If you harvesting seeds, be aware thatchive seeds lose their viability and should be sown already next year.
How to harvest the chives
You can harvest chives throughout the whole season, but it is advisable to harvest them before they bloom and the stalks become harder. Cut down the stems to about two centimeters above the ground and it will quickly grow out again. If you choose to make it flourish you can also harvest the flowers and eat them in salads or soups.
You can store chives in the refridgerator, cut up or in bundles, but they do not last for long. Should you store them for more than a few days, you need to cut them up and put them in bags that you are freezing. You can also dry chives by hanging them in a dark place with good ventilation. In dried form you can use chives in all kinds of dishes where you would otherwise use dried onions.
The main vitamin in chives is vitamin K, but it also contains vitamins A and C as well as small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Chives are very nutritious and classified as a vegetable in the industry pyramid. Chives are known to be mildly anti-inflammatory.
It also has some antibiotic properties like the other plants in the allium group (onions, garlic, etc).
Some studies suggest it may have some anti-cancerous abilities, especially in the stomach region. Studies also show that chives and other vegetables in the onion family can have properties that fight prostate cancer.
But, the same study shows that garlic has a better effect than chives.
Chives are also effective against many strains of salmonella, yet, this effect disappears unfortunately if heated to above 50 ° C (122 ° F)
Chives in food
The whole chive is edible, flower, leaves, root and seeds. But the seeds have little taste and are quite hard. The most popular is to cut the leaves (stems) into small pieces and sprinkle on potatoes, giving a crisp and light onion taste.
Chives are also often used in soups and dips. An unusual but tasty and colorful twist is to use the flower as an exciting garnish in soups and salads. Chives work very many places as a good substitute for onions, try to have them in a stuffing or in most soups.
It is advisable to add it at the end of the cooking time to keep it crisp, but it can also be in the soup right from the start to become a part of the power. Do not be afraid to experiment with it, it’s good for so much more than for the garnish.