Garlic, leeks, and shallots have a little cousin, the chive. It is the smallest and non-odorize member of the onion family. The leaves sprout from a bulb that is planted in the herb garden or in a container garden. Chives are a marvelous way to spruce up omelet’s or soups, even stews, chicken, or fish and its fat free, a healthy addition to your diet. A sunny windowsill can also be used to grow the chive herb. An added bonus, if you grow chives in your “in ground” herb garden, you are in the fresh air and are getting a little exercise. Can’t hurt, huh?
The chive has been a native of Asia and Europe for over 5000 years. They grow much like grass, in clumps. They send up graceful hollow leaves that will flower into lovely purple puffballs. If you allow the chive in your herb garden to flower the flavor of the chive becomes harsher.
It is not hard to grow the chive in your herb garden or container garden. It needs six hours of sun, well drained soil, moisture, fertilizer and pinching back. The pinching back will make the plant bushy and lush. Always use a high quality potting soil when growing your herb in container gardens. If planting the chive in an “in ground” herb garden, add some organic mix. A seaweed based fertilizer is best for feeding. You can use your old coffee grounds to mulch around the base of the chive in your herb garden. When it’s time to harvest the herb cut from the base to encourage more growth.
It is recommended that you harvest the chives before it flowers. If your chive does flower you can eat the chive flower but they are intense and should be pulled apart before use. They have a spicy, peppery taste.
As your herb garden or container garden ages, you will want to pull the plant up and divide the roots and then replant. The chive prefers a cool atmosphere so if you live in a hot area it is best to grow the chive in pots inside.
If you have an abundance of chives, make an herb salt by mixing one cup of sea salt with one cup of snipped chives. Bake in an oven for 45-60 minutes, seal tightly in a jar and place in a dark cabinet. This is a great way to spice up any culinary dish.
To dry the chive harvest snip into ¼ inch pieces, lay in thin layers on trays. Take them outside to a sunny spot and allow drying for 8 to 10 hours. An alternative method is to snip the chives, spread on a cookie sheet and dry them in a 110 degree oven with the door propped open for 4 to 6 hours.
Fresh chives can be store in the refrigerator for up to one week in a plastic bag. Do not wash or snip until ready to use.
Here is a recipe for an elegant soup that uses the chive as a garnish.
1 cup sliced raw potatoes
½ small cauliflower, floweret’s separated.
3 ½ cups of milk
4 tablespoons of soft butter
Snipped chives as needed
Cook the cauliflower, 3 cups of the milk, potatoes and salt until the vegetables are tender. Place the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth, (do this in batches).
Place the puree back into pot, dilute with the remaining milk, heat for 5 minutes then stir in the butter.
Put the soup into pretty bowls and garnish with the snipped chives.
Serve with thin slices of French bread that has the crust removed and has been sauteed in butter until lightly brown on both sides. This can be served hot or cold.
Now, enjoy your harvest and the soup!