An inconspicuous plant that looks and tastes like onions and garlic.
Its long green stems and mild, slightly spicy taste are for many a symbol of spring.
Chives add flavor and color to soups, spreads and dishes made from eggs or potatoes.
It has a beneficial effect on our digestive system, heart and bones, and anyone can grow it.
Did you know that in the past it was also used as an aphrodisiac?
Follow the footsteps of this interesting herb with us.
What is chives?
Coastal chives or Allium schoenoprasum is a perennial plant that belongs to the amaryllis family, specifically to the genus Allium. This makes it a relative of onions, leeks and garlic. Used in Europe and Asia for thousands of years, it can now be found all over the world. Popularly it is often called schnytlík or schnytlich.
It grows in dense clumps and is usually one of the first herbs to appear in the garden in spring. It produces long, thin and hollow leaves that are very easy to use in the kitchen. However, the pink to purple flowers of chives are also edible. Chives are mainly eaten fresh.
Types of chives
- Coastal chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – the most common type of chive, naturally found in Europe, Asia and North America.
- Chinese chives or garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) – a form of chives originating from China, is a common part of many Asian dishes. As its name suggests, it has a stronger garlic flavor and is used to add a subtle garlic touch to dishes. It also differs from classic chives in appearance, it has wider and flatter leaves that are not hollow. The shape and color of the flowers are also different.
- Siberian chives (Allium schoenoprasum subsp. sibiricum) – alpine subspecies of coastal chives
What does a chive look like?
At a glance, chives are most similar to spring onions. But its bright green leaves are much thinner and narrower, more like grass. In addition, compared to spring onions, chives do not use their bulbs.
How does chives taste?
Chives are known for their mild onion flavor with a slight hint of garlic. Since its taste is much milder and weaker than that of onions and garlic, it is mainly used as a garnish, not during the entire cooking process.
Generally, chives taste best when they are fresh and in season, which is late spring and just after cutting. Chive flowers are milder and sweeter. Last but not least, even though chives have a similar flavor to onions and garlic, they are unlikely to leave you with “bad-smelling” breath, and people who don’t like onions or garlic usually don’t mind chives.
What does chives contain?
By adding chives to various dishes, the body can be supplied with a whole range of health-promoting substances in a simple way. Let’s compare this herb from a nutritional point of view with spring onion, with which it is similar in many ways.
Nutritional values of chives
| Spring onion|
|Energy||30 calories||32 kcal|
|Water||90.6 g||89.8 g|
|Carbohydrates||4.35 g||7.34 g|
|Proteins||3.27 g||1.82 g|
|Fats||0.73 g||0.19 g|
|Fiber||2.5 g||2.6 g|
Vitamins and minerals in chives
Chives are very rich in some vitamins, especially vitamins A, C and K. Of the minerals, they mainly supply us with iron, magnesium and copper.
| Spring onion|
|Beta-carotene||2610 µg||598 µg|
|Vitamin A||4320 IU||997 IU|
|Vitamin B1||0.078 mg||0.055 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.115 mg||0.08 mg|
|Vitamin B3||0.647 mg||0.525 mg|
|Vitamin B5||0.324 mg||0.075 mg|
|Vitamin B6||1.81 mg||0.061 mg|
|Vitamin C||58.1 mg||18.8 mg|
|Vitamin K||213 µg||207 µg|
|Potassium||296 mg||276 mg|
|Phosphorus||58 mg||37 mg|
|Magnesium||42 mg||20 mg|
|Manganese||0.373 mg||0.16 mg|
|Sodium||3 mg||16 mg|
|Calcium||92 mg||72 mg|
|Zinc||0.56 mg||0.39 mg|
|Iron||1.6 mg||1.48 mg|
Chives and health
As far as medicinal use is concerned, chives were already used by the ancient Romans, for example. Chives contain a number of beneficial nutrients and have similar medicinal properties to garlic, including anti-cancer properties.
- Digestive system – allyl sulfides and other unique organic compounds hidden in chives can effectively relieve indigestion. In addition, it has natural antibacterial properties that can eliminate a wide range of bacteria, especially those of the salmonella family.
- Heart health – one of the most important organic compounds found in chives is allicin, which has been linked to lowering bad cholesterol, blood pressure and improving heart health. In combination with the effects of potassium, chives can have a positive effect on reducing the cardiovascular burden. Last but not least, we also find quercetin in chives, which is associated with the prevention of atherosclerosis and reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Bone health – chives contain vitamin K, which is important for bone health and blood clotting. Vitamin K contributes to the maintenance of bone mineral density and bone integrity. As we age, bone mineral density begins to decline, leading to diseases such as osteoporosis and worsening inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
- Eye health – the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin found in chives help prevent age-related macular degeneration and delay the onset of cataracts.
- Immunity – a high amount of vitamin C helps to increase the efficiency of the immune system, stimulates the production of white blood cells and stimulates the production of collagen.
- Cancer and inflammation – some research suggests that plants belonging to the allium genus, including chives, may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. In particular, cancer of the digestive tract is discussed. The reason is their sulfur-containing compounds and antimicrobial effects. Inflammation is also linked to various health problems, including heart disease and some cancers.
- Sleep and mood – chives contain choline, which is an important nutrient that helps maintain the structure of cell membranes. Choline also helps with mood, memory, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions.
- Detoxification – chives have mild diuretic properties and, combined with antibacterial properties, are a good means of detoxifying the body. By stimulating urination, it helps the body get rid of excess toxins, salts, water, and even fat, keeps organ systems running smoothly and removes dangerous substances from them that could harm us.
The origin and history of chives
The origin of chives dates back to 3000 BC, it was spread throughout ancient Greece, China and Siberia. In ancient Siberia, chives were considered a great aphrodisiac and were used as offerings to the gods, in ancient Rome they were used to treat sore throats, and in medieval Europe they were hung in bunches around gardens and houses to ward off insects and evil spirits.
What is chives used for?
Chive leaves are usually used as a garnish, they go with almost anything. Their taste pairs well with any savory dish and the bright green color adds visual appeal to the dishes as well. Be aware that if you add chives to the dish too soon, they tend to wilt.
- Chives are most often considered a great garnish especially for potatoes, try them in recipes for baked potatoes . Potatoes baked in the oven with butter, sour cream and chives are perfect.
- Do you like new potatoes? Try making them with garlic cream and chives.
- One of the easiest ways to use chives is as a sprinkle in a variety of soups. Its taste goes well with recipes for potato pancakes , in which you can use it together with parsley or chives.
- You can also use chives in the preparation of mashed potatoes . Only really mix it into the mash just before serving, otherwise your chives will wilt.
- Chive butter, a butter mixture made by mixing chopped fresh chives with butter, is a good accompaniment to grilled steaks, fish or roasted poultry. But it also tastes great with fresh baked goods.
- In addition to potatoes, chives also go well with eggs. You can easily add fresh chives to a variety of egg omelet recipes .
- You can also use the green color and slightly spicy taste when preparing egg salads or egg spreads.
- However, chives are just as well suited to various types of cheese spreads .
- Chives can also be a welcome addition to creamy pasta sauces.
- At Easter, fresh chives are an important ingredient for the popular stuffing. Do you know how to prepare the best stuffing ? Use as many fresh herbs as possible in it, not only chives, nettles and parsley, but also sage, oregano or thyme.
- You can also add fresh and frozen chives to various recipes for minced meat . It can liven up meatballs, Dutch steak or meatloaf with its taste and aroma.
- Last but not least, together with other herbs, nuts and olive oil, you can use chives to make homemade pesto .
What to replace chives with?
Although spring onions are different from chives, they can be used as an effective substitute for this herb, both visually and in terms of taste. To best imitate the taste of chives, use only the green parts of the onion and half the amount, as the spring onion flavor is stronger and more pronounced. If you don’t even have spring onions, you can try using leeks.
How to cut chives?
To cut or chop chives properly, flatten them into a pile after trimming and wrap them with a rubber band to keep the leaves tightly together. Hold a sharp chef’s knife perpendicular to the length of the chives and chop the chives as thinly as possible in a rocking motion. Alternatively, you can also use sharp kitchen scissors to finely cut the leaves.
Fresh chives will keep in the refrigerator wrapped in a paper towel and plastic bag for about five days. It can also easily be stored in an upright position in a glass of water. It is best to wash it just before use, otherwise you will speed up its deterioration.
To keep chives on hand during the winter months, you can freeze them by placing them in the freezer before storing them in an airtight freezer bag on a baking sheet. Compared to other herbs, it is not recommended to dry chives, as there is a significant loss of its aroma.
Coastal chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are very popular not only for their taste and ease of use in the kitchen, but also for their unpretentiousness. Almost everyone can grow it, whether in the garden, on the balcony or on the window sill.
It grows in bunches that reach a height of around 30-40 cm. The long, narrow and hollow leaves are deep green. In the second year after planting, from about May to August, chives produce pink to purple flowers that are very attractive to bees. From the spherical flowers, a capsule with small black seeds is formed.
How to grow your own chives?
Chives are suited to loamy, sandy soil with enough nutrients, especially calcium. If you plant it in a flower bed, it will last for several years in one place. In the garden, plant it in partial shade if possible. The strong aroma of chives repels some pests and can help you protect other crops from them. Gardeners recommend planting it especially near carrots, parsley, celery or strawberries. The most popular varieties of chives include Bohemia, Praga and Erecta.
When to plant chives?
You can grow chives either from seeds, from a pre-grown plant that we buy in the store, or from bunches that you take out of the garden in the fall. We will then transplant them into containers and we can have fresh chives available even in the winter months. Unlike most other plants, the seeds can be planted directly in the garden at the end of April, they do not require pre-cultivation in domestic conditions.
We can harvest after approximately 8 weeks from planting them. Chives require regular but not excessive watering. We pay attention to excessive watering, especially for plants grown in pots, it causes yellowing and drying of the leaves.
How to cut chives?
Chives can be cut throughout the growing season, i.e. from June to September. It is generally recommended to never cut it lower than two to three centimeters. The more often we cut the chives, the finer the new leaves will be. If we prefer the spicier taste of chives, we try to continuously remove the flowers, which otherwise weaken the plant. We also remove woody stems from older plants. Before winter, cover the outdoor chives with pine needles or mulch bark, the plant is frost-resistant and will grow again in the spring.
What about chives when they flower?
Most of us cut the chive leaves before they flower, or we cut the flowers and throw them away. However, the purple flowers of chives, with their slightly garlicky, onion flavor, are also edible. They are great as a garnish or you can stew them or even bake them with chicken. Chive butter can also be prepared from chopped lez flowers or they can be infused in vinegar or oil.