Herbs used in cooking and nutritious meal preparation
With this selection of blogs, I want to give attention to culinary herbs that you can grow for you and your family, that have great health benefits and can grow in a small area such as a patio, veranda, carport or landing for an apartment. I addressed parsley last time, and this week I have chosen chives, (Allium schoenoprasum). Mine are presently out in flower, sadly not as full as they could be, but, I thought I would choose this one anyway. Because there real and I don’t have to find someone else’s photo.
Chives are probably one of the most commonly known culinary herbs and when used in cooking they are used principally used to add onion flavour, but without the stronger onion intensity or in some cases repeating. I also add chives into my cooking because it is another way of sneaking in greens without great effort, plus nutrition, as most, if not all herbs are typically higher in vitamins and minerals than larger fruits and vegetables. They are nutritional power packs, allowing us to physically eat less yet get more.
Chives is a native to continental Europe and including Britain, but now grows world wide in any regions tha are ranging from temperate to hot, and regions that get very cold it is best to bring it inside out of the cold, although they are usually frost-hardy.
Back in the middle ages, it was called the rush leek, from the Greek word schoinos – rush and prason – leek.
Culinary uses for Chives
Such a simple herb, so why not grow them? They really take very little space and care and last years, producing free food and flavour for very little effort, and have a beautiful mauve colour in a cute ball shape. Therefore, they can make an interesting addition, both for colour and shape to a garden. Pests generally don’t like them due to their sulphur content, yet bees love them, sounds like a win-win to me.
From a culinary point of view they make great additions and can be used in many recipes. I often use them in mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, plus omelettes and other egg dishes or just in plain ole scrambled eggs in the morning. In the morning, I just wander out into my carport grab a selection of herbs, parsley and chives are often the main choices, bring them into the kitchen, finely chop them and lightly cook them just before I throw in the scrambled eggs, and voila, a yummy breakfast, better than any dry cereal I my book, and can fit into many diets, from Vegan to Keto.
Chives can be added to salads to add a little zest or bite, mixed into egg sandwiches, sprinkled onto soups and casseroles for colour, aroma and flavour. I have chopped up some freshly picked chives and added it into homemade ricotta cheese. The flowers can be eaten raw and fresh, put into salads or you can place the petals in a butter or a vinegar. The unopened flowers are used at times in asian cooking.
- 100grams or 4 oz of unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons of freshly chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Celtic or Himilayan salt for taste
- A pinch of pepper
- Soften the butter enough to allow easy blending of the chives
- Evenly mix in the chives and butter together
- Beat in the lemon juice
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Place and cool down in the fridge
- When cool but still soft enugh to spread it is ready for use
- Should last 3 – 4 days in the fridge
Chives don’t store really well, and if you are storing them in a bottle they will need to to dried, but won’t keep for a long time. But they do keep in the freezer all chopped up in plastic bags for about six months.
The Herb Files
The most common mistake with chives is that it gets mixed up with another chives, what?! There are specifically two plants often called chives, they are similar in some ways, but they are still reasonably different. They are Garlic chives and Onion chives, both get called chives, but they are different. Onion chives have a round tubular stem that is hollow, with a pale purple flower, although one species does have a white flower, whereas garlic chives has a flat blade like stem, with fragrant white flowers. The leaves for both are used in cooking, but the bulb of garlic chives is not edible. The main difference when used in cooking is that onion chives give a ‘onion flavour’ and ‘garlic chives’ gives a garlic flavour, amazing isn’t it! But for thos who want a gentle garlic flavour instead of garlic itself, then you can use garlic chives.
Gardening with Chives
Apart from the obvious culinary uses, chives can make an excellent decorative or ornamental border around flowering and vegetable gardens, placed in rockeries, gaps in rock walls and in or on ledges and edges. As they grow to 15 to 30 cm/6″ to 9″ high and in clumps that are approximately 15cm/ 6 ” wide with their flowers being a beautiful long-lasting pale purple or lilac. When planting in garden beds etc., plant with plenty of blood and bone or good seaweed fertilisers, plus itis a good idea to mulch around the plant to keep it weed free. Chives has very little pest and disease problems, but does have occassional attcks from aphids. Use a natural spray or if you are careful you can hose them off.
If your into companion planting you can plant chives along side roses tomatoes, carrots and grapes as well as fruit trees.
How to grow it
Chives like a well-draining soil that is light but slightly moist, but during hotter months thya may want extra watering. They can grow in full sun but don’t mind just a little shade at times.
The easiest way to get started is during spring is to ask a friendly gardening neighbour if they have any chives, and if they do, ask them if you can have some by dividing a small sample off the original clump. Simply plant this into a pot about 20cm or 8″, water it in and just wait a couple of weeks before attempting to start harvesting. Yes, they really are tough plants to learn on.
To grow from seed, and you have hot summers, only plant from autumn to spring, but if you have a more milder summer, then you can plant from spring to autumn.
To plant your seeds, prepare a container such as a tray, window box or pot with good vegetable potting mix, then push a few holes about 6mm or 1/4″ into the mix with your finger and about 15cm or 6″ apart, (as you won’t need many plants anyway, and four is heaps for a family, unless you are going to sell or trade them) and drop a couple of seeds into each hole. Once you have done that, simply cover them over, and gently water the mix. Keep the mix slightly moist, and all going good, they should be popping out of the ground in about 2 – 3 weeks, unless it quite cold there. Thin out if you have too many. Harvest the leaves close to the ground as you need them, and to keep them fresh or grow more if you intend to dry or freeze them for later use.
If you have rather cold winters, bring your pot of chives inside to take care of it. Also, it is a good thing to divide your bunch of chives about every two years.
From a more technical perspective, 50 grams has approximately 40% of your daily needs of vitamin A, and just under 50% of your daily needs of vitamin C. Plus, more than your daily needs of vitamin K, and over 10% of folate. It also has other vitamins such as: Thiamin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, and Vitamin B6.
It has minerals such as, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Plus, good ole dietary fibre, yeah!
Please remember, this blog cannot replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a The Herbarius