Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chives - a year of food by the season

I love that chives are one of the first perennials to come up each year and they quickly make it into my spring recipes. Chives bring back many good memories. My mother grew them at the side of our house under the leaking outdoor hose.

Its English name, chive, derives from the French word cive, which was derived from cepa, the Latin word for onion. Chives grow in grass like clumps and they like full sun. Often you can get a clump from a neighbour. They are a perennial and considered a pioneer herb. Both the slender, hollow stems and pink flowers are edible.

Many people associate chives with baked potatoes and sour cream. But the culinary uses are pretty much endless. I love them in omelets and scrambled eggs. They go great in biscuits and bread and help to garnish a salad or soup.... very tasty in potato pancakes! You can also puree with olive oil and make chive pesto.

Leaves/Stems: They have a garlicky onion flavour. Slice and use like green onions.
Flowers: If you allow yours to bloom they will produce large, pink, edible blossoms. The blossoms look nice in salads and they make a beautiful pink vinegar with a strong onion flavour. This vinegar makes a very good Caesar salad. The pompom flowers also look nice in flower arrangements.

I like to grow many clumps of chives and have some that I don't allow to flower. This way I am able to eat them until they get covered by winter snow. Cutting them often at the surface makes them grow back fuller. You can use scissors or a sharp knife - hold the stems in one hand and cut straight across below. You will have what I call a chive bundle.

Fresh Chive Bundles Freeze Well: keep them in the bundle, quick rinse and place in bottom of a zip lock bag freezer bag. Fold them in half if they are long. Squeeze the air out of the bag and squirrel them away in the freezer for use over the winter months.

NUTRITION FACTS (125 ml or 26 grams fresh chives): 10 calories, 0 g fat, 1 g fibre. % Daily Values: 20% Vitamin A, 25% Vitamin C, 2% calcium and 2% iron. A traditional nutrient analysis won't fully do justice as it doesn't show antioxidants etc.

MEDICINAL USE: the medicinal properties of chives are similar to those of garlic but weaker.
They contain numerous organisulplide compounds such as allyl sulfides and alkyl sulfoxides. They can have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, acting upon it by lowering the blood pressure. As chives are usually served in small amounts and never as the main dish, negative effects are rarely encountered, although digestive problems may occur following over-consumption.

Join me for a cooking class using chives and other fresh herbs. Dressings, Marinades, Herb Vinegars, Oils and More! will be held on Sunday May 17th

© Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc

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