Edible Garden: Chives in the kitchen

If you're not a fan of the pungent taste of raw onions, try using chives for a milder flavouring or garnish. Used as a culinary herb since the Middle Ages, this miniature version of the extended onion family (in botanical terms known as Allium schoenoprasum) adds a subtle flavour - without the tears!

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You can purchase chives in punnets or pots at your local garden centre or nursery, and they are avalable all year round, except in winter when they die down and go dormant. You can also grow your own chives from seed, which germinates very easily if the container with sown seed is kept in a warm place and the soil is kept just moist until well germinated. A favourite, fuss-free way to germinate the seed of chives is to place a glass cloche over the container. Easy to grow, chives form thick clumps of mint-green tubular stems or leaves to harvest and the mauve flowers they produce in summer are also edible and great to use as a garnish in salads.

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We asked Life's A Garden to share some of their tips for using chives in the kitchen:

Dip your chip

Mix some freshly chopped chives and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper into a container of cream cheese and serve as a dip with crisps or crackers.

Dress with herbs

In French cuisine a delicate herb mix including equal amounts of chopped fresh chives, tarragon, chervil and parsley is used to flavour soups and egg and chicken dishes near the end of the cooking process. Dried herbs can also be used but soon lose their flavour.

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Breakfast fit for kings

Blend up some chive pesto to turn ordinary scrambled eggs into a royal feast. The pesto will last for a few days in the fridge.

Use the following ingredients:

¾ cup olive oil
⅔ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
⅔ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
2 tsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Purée the oil, parsley and garlic in a blender. Add the chives and cheese and purée till smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Whisk a dozen large eggs together while adding in about 3 tablespoons of the pesto. Cook the egg mixture in a bit of oil until still soft, but set. Stir frequently. Place two slices of prosciutto ham on each plate and dish up the scrambled eggs on top.
For an equally tasty alternative try smoked trout or salmon instead of the ham.

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Chives facts:

  • Chives will grow successfully in a window box or in small pots on a sunny kitchen windowsill.
  • Chives are insect-repellent and thus ideal companion plants to protect roses, vegetables and fruit trees against aphids.
  • Although repellent to insect pests, the pretty flowers attract pollinating bees.
  • Chives are not fussy about soil, but commercial potting soil is preferable if grown in containers. Enrich garden soil before planting with ample amounts of compost.
  • When harvesting, cut the stalks down to the base of the plant, it will soon regrow, giving you more flavourful leaves.
  • Chives are a perfect match for cold meats, fish, shellfish, eggs, potatoes, soups and salads if used as a generous garnish.
  • Overgrown clumps of chives can be divided by digging up and splitting the dormant little bulb clusters during winter.

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