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Chives, a bold flavor from the smallest of the onion family.

Chives are diminutive tubular versions of scallion leaves (from the Latin ascalonia meaning onion from Ascalon). FYI, Ascalon (then spelled Ashkelon) was the oldest and largest sea port in ancient Israel. The Battle of Ascalon in 1099 is often considered the last action of the First Crusade.

Chives are the smallest member of the onion family. I used to wonder why they were always referred to in the plural. I never saw anything that referred to a chive. The answer is that they grow in clumps and not as individual flowers, so they are quite rightly, chives. When Columbus and others came to the new world there were very few plants and especially herbs that were familiar to them. They did know chives. It is one of the few herbs native to both the Old World and the New World.

Chives are used often in French cuisine. It is one of the four herbs found in fine (pronounced feen) herbs along with tarragon, chervil, and parsley. Fine herbs are also referred to as French sweet herbs. Given the fame and notoriety of French cooking, it is not surprising to find chives as a part of the cooking scene. What is a little surprising is that chives are also a major player in the Swedish cuisine. The reason for this is probably that they are one of the few herbs that can grow in a very cool climate.

When used in dishes, add the snipped chives close to the end of cooking to preserve their flavor and crispness. Both chives and their edible pink and lavender colored flowers are a tasty and colorful addition to salads. These flowers are also excellent when used to make flavored vinegars especially when using white wine vinegar as the base. Chives give a hint of onion flavor to egg dishes, cheese soufflés, salads, soups, cream cheese sandwiches, and sour cream dressing for baked potatoes. Chive butter is great with grilled chops and steak.

A member of the lily family, many of its cousins also appear in this collection. They include; onions, garlic chives, Welsh onion and garlic.

When chives are unavailable green onion tips may be substituted.


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