Chives

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Chives grow wild in their native Europe, but are believed to have originally come to us from Central Asia. Their mild, onion-like flavor is integral to Viennese cuisine.

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Chives as an Herb

Hollow chive leaves are one of the most popular culinary herbs in Central and Northern Europe. Even the ancient Romans prized the spicy, onion-like flavor and mild heat. Chives are thought to have arrived in Eurasia from Central Asia thousands of years ago. Today, like parsley, it’s particularly prevalent in the forests and meadows of Germany and Austria. Along with its leaves, the flowers on the chive plant are also edible and are used to add a delicious flavor to egg dishes and potato soup.

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Usage

The beautiful flavor of chives is used to season stews, soups, sauces, meat and vegetable dishes, egg dishes, salads, spreads, mild cheeses and sandwiches. Chives are particularly delicious when paired with chervil, tarragon and parsley. Add chives to dishes shortly before serving as they quickly lose their flavor when exposed to heat. Chives are perfect for seasoning French, German and Austrian dishes — however, they are particularly revered in Viennese cuisine: Traditionally, prime boiled beef (Tafelspitz) is served with a cold chive sauce as well as a condiment made from apples and horseradish, and Beef broth is also garnished with a sprinkling of the chopped herb.

Tip!

Try not to use both chives and garlic in the same dish, as this will create an overpowering flavor. It is better to use wild garlic, as its delicate flavor complements chives perfectly.

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The Plant

The relatively unassuming chive plant is the smallest member of the onion family, which also includes wild garlic, garlic and onion. Its tubular green stems grow to around 15 cm tall. Between May and August, it bears flowers that range from white to purple in color. Chives are one of the few herbs to grow even at higher altitudes in the Alps, and so are an integral part of the cuisine in this region. By the time the plant starts to flower, the flavor of chives has already largely been lost — it needs to be harvested before it blossoms to get the optimal flavor. Larger stems have the most intense flavor, while thinner ones have a more subtle taste.

Factbox

Scientific Name
Allium schoenoprasum L.
Family
Onion family (Alliaceae)
Other Names
Wild chives, onion chives
Origin
Probably Central Asia