No tears with Chives!

If you prefer a milder and more subtle flavouring or garnish than the pungent taste of raw onions, give fresh chives a try. This miniature version of the extended onion family (in botanical terms known as Allium schoenoprasum) has been used as a culinary and medicinal herb since the Middle Ages.

Chives are virtually always available in punnets or pots in the herb sections of nurseries, except in the dead of winter when they die down and go dormant, and can also be sown from seed which germinates very easily if the container with sown seed is kept in a warm place and the soil is kept just moist until well germinated. A favourite, fuss-free way to germinate the seed of chives is to place a glass cloche over the container.

Chives grow fairly fast and will form thick clumps of mint-green tubular stems or leaves to harvest. The mauve flowers they produce in summer are also edible and are lovely to use as a garnish in salads.

Dip your chip

Mix some freshly chopped chives and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper into a container of cream cheese and serve as a dip with crisps or crackers.

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Impress with ‘Fines Herbes

In French cuisine a delicate herb mix including equal amounts of chopped fresh chives, tarragon, chervil and parsley is used to flavour soups and egg and chicken dishes near the end of the cooking process. Dried herbs can also be used but soon lose their flavour.

Breakfast fit for four kings!

Blend up some chive pesto to turn ordinary scrambled eggs into a royal feast. The pesto will last for a few days in the fridge.

Use the following ingredients:

¾ cup olive oil
⅔ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
⅔ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Purée the oil, parsley and garlic in a blender. Add the chives and cheese and purée till smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Whisk a dozen large eggs together while adding in about 3 tablespoons of the pesto. Cook the egg mixture in a bit of oil until still soft, but set. Stir frequently. Place two slices of prosciutto ham on each plate and dish up the scrambled eggs on top.
For an equally tasty alternative try smoked trout or salmon instead of the ham.

Chives facts:

  • Chives will grow successfully in a window box or in small pots on a sunny kitchen windowsill.
  • Chives are insect-repellent and thus ideal companion plants to protect roses, vegetables and fruit trees against aphids.
  • Although repellent to insect pests, the pretty flowers attract pollinating bees.
  • Chives are not fussy about soil, but commercial potting soil is preferable if grown in containers. Enrich garden soil before planting with ample amounts of compost.
  • When harvesting, cut the stalks down to the base of the plant, it will soon regrow, giving you more flavourful leaves.
  • Chives are a perfect match for cold meats, fish, shellfish, eggs, potatoes, soups and salads if used as a generous garnish.
  • Overgrown clumps of chives can be divided by digging up and splitting the dormant little bulb clusters during winter.
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