The smallest member of the allium family -- home to the onion, garlic and leek -- chives are a great addition to your culinary repertoire, especially as springtime approaches. Not only are chives easy to grow in kitchen gardens and window boxes, the mild onion flavor of the chive makes it a great addition to all sorts of recipes.
What Are Chives?
Related to onions as they are, a chive's mild flavor is comparable to that of the green tops of spring onions, though the fact that they are so mild and tender makes them a much easier addition to herb blends. Though their flavor is stronger than that of some even milder herbs, such as parsley, chives don't monopolize the flavor of other ingredients.
Chives are the only allium native to both the New and Old World, and they are traditionally used in both American and European cultures as a culinary ingredient, as well as an insect repellent. Though it's not advisable to apply chives to the skin -- you'll smell a little oniony! -- chives can be used as a natural insect repellent in organic home gardens, perfect for keeping bugs away from your other plants.
How Do I Use Them?
Chives are a versatile herb, ready to be used in a variety of ways. Many recipes call for minced chives, but the thin stalks are much easier to snip into little pieces with kitchen scissors, which is how I usually prepare the allium. You can dry your own chives for later use in a 110 degree oven, by placing washed and dried whole chives on your upper oven rack, with a cookie sheet underneath to catch any chives that fall. This process can take anywhere from 2 to 7 hours, but your dried chives will be ready to use all year long.
For an herbed cheese, combine roasted chives and cream cheese or soft goat cheese to form a smooth paste. Serve with crackers or crudités. You can also try one of our favorite herbed goat cheese recipes.
Another great dip for crudités is a homemade ranch dressing. You can make up your own or use this great homemade ranch recipe.
Chives go great with potatoes, like in our recipe for Smashed Potatoes and Celery Root with Chives. I love using chives in a simple sauce for potatoes that my French host family made, using mustard, yogurt and chives. I've turned this into a favorite mashed potato recipe, but the original sauce with three simple ingredients is excellent as well. Combine a cup of homemade yogurt with a teaspoon (or more, to taste) of spicy French mustard and 3-4 chives, snipped into tiny pieces with kitchen scissors. Stir it up with a pinch of salt to taste, and voilà! Dinner is served... bon appétit!