Chives: An Ancient Herb With A Delicate Flavor

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Chives are in the onion family and have been used in Europe and Asia for millennia. Historians disagree about the region of origin. Chives may have come from Siberia, Greece or China.

The herb was not actively cultivated in Europe until the middle ages. In medieval Europe, it was used to discourage insects and as a decorative plant. Lore surrounding chives include the tale that they were given to Alexander the Great in Siberia and that they are a powerful aphrodisiac.

Flavor profile of chives

Chives are related to onions, leeks and garlic, and the relationship is evident in the taste. They have a delicate onion flavor that is complemented by hints of garlic. Because their flavor is relatively mild, experts recommend that chives be added at the end of cooking. This keeps the flavor from being destroyed by high heat and long cooking times. Chives also make an excellent garnish as they serve as a lighter alternative to the more intense flavor of green onions.

Health benefits of chives

  • Rich in fiber: Chives have more dietary fiber than onions and other members of the onion family. You can get 7 percent of your daily recommended amount of fiber from 100 grams of chives.
  • Rich in organosulfur compounds: Organosulfur compounds are thought to make chives and other members of the onion family effective at cancer prevention though researchers have not yet determined exactly how these compounds work to prevent cancer. The types of cancers that members of the chive family are thought to inhibit include prostate and esophageal cancer.
  • Rich in choline: Chives are a particularly good source of choline. Choline helps with sleep, memory and the ability to move muscles. In addition, choline is important for building the structure of cellular membranes and it helps with the transmission of nerve impulses.
  • Rich in vitamin K: Chives are loaded with this vitamin that is useful for preventing bone demineralization. They contain so much of it that you can get over 170 percent of your daily recommended intake from 100 g of fresh chives. Vitamin K also helps with the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease due to its ability to limit damage to neurons.
  • Rich in vitamin A: Chives contain significantly more vitamin A when compared to other members of the onion family.
  • Rich in antioxidants: The antioxidants found in chives include quercetin and vitamin K. These antioxidants are among the reasons that chives are effective for protecting against cancer. It is thought that quercetin may help to reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries. People whose diet is rich in quercetin and other flavonoids have lower levels of cholesterol as well as lower blood pressure levels.

Common uses of chives

Chives are popular in French cuisine where they are one of the fines herbes, which is a term for the core set of herbs used throughout French cooking. Chives are a popular ingredient in French omelets and cheese soufflés. In Sweden, the herb is used to make gräddfil sauce to accompany herring. In Russia and Poland, chives are sometimes used to flavor a soft cheese called tvorog.

In the U.S., chives are known to pair well with seafood and are a popular garnish for lobster chowder. Along with dill, they are widely used when cooking fish. Chives are also one of the more popular flavoring additives for cream cheese.