Description of Chives
Chives are used a lot in different international cuisines, chives are herbs which are part of the onion family. In fact, the origin of the name "chives" can be traced back to the Latin word "cepa", which means "onion." Its scientific name is Allium schoenoprasum. This herb grows in Asia, Europe, and North America. Its stalks are similar to that of the reed - long, slender, and hollow - and they grow from 10 to 15 inches or 30 to 50 cm tall. The stalks are a bright dark green. Much like onions, chives are bulbous. That is, they grow bulbs at the roots. These bulbs serve as storage organs for food. Chives grow in clumps, or clusters, and sprout flowers as well. The flowers are shaped like stars and are colored pink or purple. They bloom for about two months in the middle of summer.
History of Chives
Chives have been in use for many centuries now. Some say that they originate from China and that the Chinese have been using chives for many purposes. The widespread use of chives can be traced back to Europe during the Middle Ages. Chinese chives are a bit different from chives that are used in the Western parts of the world, though. Their stems are generally wider than other types of chives.
Cultivation of Chives
Chives can be grown using seeds or an existing patch. The latter method has been proven to be the easier way to start your own chive patch, though. To do this, just take out a cluster of chives and then directly plant it into your own garden. The best time to cultivate your own chive patch would depend on your location. In general, early spring is the best time to do this. If you want to use seeds, you have more flexibility as to the planting time. Chive seeds can be planted until early fall. When using seeds, you need to germinate them first and then replant the shoots after about weeks.
If you are a city dweller with no access to a reasonable plot of soil, do not despair. Chives are one of those herbs which can be easily grown inside your house or apartment. Get a medium sized pot and fill it with garden loam or slightly acidic soil. Transplant a whole bunch (or several if you wish) of chives into the pot and then place it on your window sill. Now you have yourself year-round access to this much wanted herb!
Chives grow well in loamy soil but they also thrive in soil that is slightly acidic. Chives need moisture, especially during its growing period. Make sure that your patch has enough shade.
Uses for Chives
Chives are most commonly used fresh. If you are even vaguely familiar with French, Chinese, and Swedish cuisine, you would know that chives are a common ingredient in their dishes. In fact, chives are included in the group of herbs that the French call "fines herbes". This is a group of herbs which are a staple in French dishes.
The main plant part which is used for culinary purposes is the stalk. The stalks (or leaves as some would say) are usually chopped. The chopped stalks are then mixed with the food. Though part of the onion family, chives do not have such a strong flavor. In addition, they add a splash of color to the dish they are mixed with. That is why chives are a popular ingredient to many dishes.
Chives are commonly mixed with cold soups, various kinds of stir fry, and sandwiches. Chives can be used with meat as well as fish. Chives are great for fresh salads. Gathered fresh and chopped finely, chives will liven up any salad. You may be surprised to know that chives are even mixed with pancakes! Another common use of chives is for sauces and dips or garnishing. Sour cream and cheese also go well with chives.
Aside from culinary purposes, chives are also used for medicinal practices as well. They are known to have some positive effects on blood circulation. Much like garlic, it can lower the blood pressure. However, its effects are not as intense as garlic.
The stalk or leaves of chives are not the only parts that are useful. In fact, the flower of chives is one of the most used parts as well. As the flowers are quite colorful and nicely shaped, they are used as ornaments for the dinner table. Some people also make use of the flowers to add to the beauty of their food presentation. Chives can also brighten up your herb garden. Just leave them there in full bloom and they will certainly add color to your surroundings. They are also used to brighten up borders and corners in some properties. In order to keep your chives happily blooming and looking bright, you need to do some maintenance work. Trimming is an essential activity. Trim lightly instead of just hacking off the tops of the plants. This will encourage growth and get rid of leaves that are looking slightly old and dry.
Chives are generally known to have insect repellent properties. Planting chives near other flowers can help get rid of aphids and other unwanted insects. This practice is especially useful when planting chives near ornamental flowers such as roses. Ironically, though, bees seem to be attracted to chives. In fact, chives have been used to help induce an increase in bee populations.
In the olden times, chives were used for fortune telling. Folklore also talks about sprinkling chives under one's pillow in order to guarantee a good night's sleep.
Though chives are commonly used fresh, dried chives are also used for a variety of purposes. However, dried chives lose much of their flavor. Chives are dried in a variety of ways and you can easily find them in supermarkets. Though you can dry chives under the sun, commercially produced chives are normally freeze dried. Certain folklore also surrounds dried chives. Superstition states that hanging dried chives around one's house would ward off disease and other evil spirits.