Chives are grass-like in appearance and are the smallest member of the onion family. They are related to onions, shallots, garlic and leeks and contain many of the same properties. Chives are mainly cultivated for culinary purposes and are especially popular with egg and cheese dishes.
History of chives
Marco Polo has been credited with bringing chives back to Europe from China, some time in the Middle Ages, which is when they became popular and widely cultivated. However, there is evidence to show that the ancient Chinese used chives for culinary and medicinal purposes long before.
As well as using chives in their cooking, Europeans used to tie them up in bunches and hang them around the house. They believed that chives had magical qualities that kept evil forces and spirits away and prevented the occupants of the household from falling ill.
Although the chive plant is the mildest member of the onion family, chives are still an excellent source of Vitamins A and C. They also contain smaller quantities of Vitamins B1 and B2, as well as calcium, phosphorous and iron.
The benefits of chives
All members of the onion family contain high levels of sulphur compounds, which are actually highly beneficial for the circulation of blood around the body, which keeps blood pressure low. Other healing properties of chives include:
- They are beneficial to the respiratory system.
- They aid digestion and help to digest fatty foods such as cheese.
- They are good for tiredness and fatigue.
- Chives act as a diuretic and can reduce obesity and fluid retention.
- Chives are said to stimulate the appetite.
- Research has shown that the risk of prostate cancer may be reduced by 50%.
Fresh is the best
Unlike some kinds of herbs, chives lose their taste and flavour when dried, therefore, it is best to use chives when they are fresh.
They can be snipped with scissors and added to all kinds of dishes, hot or cold.
Ideas for cooking with chives
Chives are usually used on their own to flavor certain foods, however the French, particularly, combine chives with fresh parsley, chervil and tarragon to make what they call “fines herbes”, which they add to all types of dishes. Below are a few ideas on how to use chives in the kitchen:
- Sprinkle over salads or add to sandwiches.
- Add to scrambled eggs during cooking.
- Mix with cottage cheese to eat with a jacket potato.
- Add to mayonnaise or garlic mayonnaise.
- Mix into sandwich spreads or cream cheese.
- Add to plain yogurt and use as a dressing for salad.
- Add to melted butter for a sauce for grilled fish or poultry.
- Sprinkle over soups or stews.
- Add to sauces near the end of cooking.
- Add to mashed potato or omelettes.
- Add to the raw mixture of homemade beef burgers and croquettes.