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!
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.
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.
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.