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14 Interesting Facts About Fresh Chives

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Chives are a popular herb used in many cuisines around the world. Their mild onion-garlic flavor makes them a versatile ingredient that can elevate dishes like omelets, soups, salads, and more.

While you may be familiar with using fresh chives to garnish your foods, there are some fascinating details about this herb you may not know. Read on for 14 interesting facts about fresh chives!

1. There Are 2 Main Types of Chives

The two varieties of chives are:

  • Common chives – With their grass-like leaves and purple flower buds, common chives are the type most frequently used in cooking. They have a mild, onion-y bite.
  • Garlic chives – Garlic chives have flatter, wider leaves and white flowers. As the name suggests, garlic chives have more of a garlicky taste than common chives. They are popular in Chinese cuisine.

So when a recipe simply calls for “chives,” it’s likely referring to common chives. But both types can be used in similar ways.

2. Chives Are Part of the Allium Family

Close-Up Photo Of Chopped Chives

Chives belong to the Allium genus of plants in the Amaryllidaceae family. This family contains other bulb vegetables and herbs like:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Scallions
  • Shallots

So it’s no wonder chives share that signature allium flavor!

3. There’s a Simple Trick to Remember Chives vs Scallions

Chives and scallions have a very similar appearance. But there’s an easy way to tell them apart:

  • Chives – Thin, tube-shaped leaves with a purple flower bud. More herbaceous.
  • Scallions – Hollow, straw-like greens with a white bulb base. More vegetable-like.

The thin chive leaves impart flavor, while the scallion greens add texture and light onion taste.

4. Chives Are Native to Asia and Europe

Chives grow wild in temperate regions across Asia and Europe. There are also historical records of chives being cultivated in China for over 5,000 years!

From medieval cottage gardens to ancient Asian remedies, chives have a long global history as a versatile, hardy crop.

5. Chives Contain Vitamins A and C

In addition to their bright flavor, chives also deliver nutritional value:

  • Excellent source of vitamin K – Supports bone health.
  • High in vitamin A – Important for eye and skin health.
  • Good source of vitamin C – Boosts the immune system.

Chives’ antioxidant content also helps fight inflammation and chronic disease.

6. Chives Have Several Medicinal Uses

Shallow Focus of Purple Flowers

Historically, chives were believed to provide various health benefits, like:

  • Stimulating appetite – Early Chinese medicine used chives this way.
  • Aiding digestion – Traditional Indian Ayurveda turned to chives for this.
  • Relieving insect bites – Rubbing chives on the skin can temporarily ease itching and pain.
  • Healing wounds – The ancient Greeks covered wounds with bruised chive leaves.

Modern science is still studying the medicinal effectiveness of chives. But sprinkling them onto foods certainly makes healthy eating more delicious!

7. Chives Are Easy to Grow at Home

Want fresh chives right on hand? Chives are one of the simplest herbs to grow yourself, even for beginners.

A few chive growing tips:

  • Plant chive bulbs or use plant divisions in early spring.
  • Chives thrive with lots of sun and well-drained soil.
  • Cut chive leaves near the base – they’ll quickly regrow all season long!
  • Bring potted chives indoors before first frost.

With minimal care, you can have homegrown chives for endless recipes.

8. In the Language of Flowers, Chives Symbolize Usefulness

In the Victorian era, different flowers were used to send coded messages – known as floriography. So what do chives represent?

Usefulness.

With their versatility in the kitchen, medicinal history, and ornamental appeal, it’s fitting that chives symbolize usefulness and resourcefulness.

They’re one of the most handy herbs to grow and use!

9. You Can Use Chives Flowers as a Garnish Too

Don’t discard those pretty purple chive blossoms – they’re edible too!

  • The mildly oniony flowers make a delicate garnish.
  • Sprinkle them onto salads, soups, omelets, pasta, and more.
  • They add a pop of color and subtle flavor.

Chive buds also make a beautiful botanical ice cube for summer drinks!

10. Chives Lose Flavor When Cooked

Here’s a cooking tip for getting the most out of fresh chives:

  • Chives will lose their flavor if cooked for longer periods at high heats.
  • For best flavor, add them raw or at the very end of cooking.
  • Sprinkling them on finished dishes preserves their signature flavor.

So save that chive garnish for the final touch!

11. The Longest Chive Measured Over 3 Feet

Pink Chives Flowers Growing in Garden

As a member of the Guinness World Records, the longest chive was displayed in 2012 by grower Joe Atherton in the UK. It measured a whopping 3 feet 5.5 inches (115 cm)!

Now that’s one supersized side garnish.

12. “Chives” Can Also Refer to Very Young Leeks

This is more common in the UK, but sometimes “chives” refers to slim leeks harvested while they’re still young spring plants under a foot tall. So if a British recipe lists chives, be aware that leeks may be intended instead.

True chives have thin, hollow leaves – not the thicker flat leaves of baby leeks. Check for visual clues if you’re unsure!

13. In Germany, Chives Go by “Schnittlauch”

Wondering what chives are called in other languages? Here’s a sampling:

  • French – Ciboulette
  • Italian – Erba cipollina
  • Spanish – Cebollino
  • German – Schnittlauch (“cut leek”)

The German name refers to chives’ long green stems, similar to young leeks. Fun language fact!

14. Alaska Has a Small Town Named Chives

This is less about the herb itself – but interesting nonetheless! The tiny township of Chives is located in the far north of Alaska’s Seward Peninsula, above the Arctic Circle. It had a population of 11 as of the 2010 census.

Not many folks can say they live in a town named after an herb. The more you know!

Key Takeaways

  • Chives are an easy-to-grow, mild-flavored herb great for enhancing all kinds of recipes.
  • Keep their vitamins intact by adding raw chives at the end of cooking.
  • Garnish with edible chive flowers for bonus flavor and presentation.
  • Historically prized for their versatility and healing uses, Victorians saw chives as representing usefulness.
  • Other intriguing chive facts involve record-breaking lengths, young leeks, fun language names, and an Arctic Circle town in Alaska!

Hopefully learning more about this humble herb gave you new inspiration for utilizing fresh chives in your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to store fresh chives?

Wrap chive stems in a slightly damp paper towel, place inside a loose plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator. Properly stored, they should last up to 2 weeks.

Can dried chives be substituted for fresh?

Dried chives make an acceptable stand-in, but the flavor won’t be as vibrant. Use 1/3 of the amount of dried chives to match the taste intensity of fresh.

What dishes pair especially well with chives?

Some top dishes to use chives in are omelets, mashed potatoes, creamy vegetable dips, salads, scrambled eggs, grilled meats like fish or chicken, and soups like potato leek soup. They work with all kinds of foods!

Can you grow chives indoors?

Definitely! Potted chives grow well indoors on sunny windowsills all year round. The ideal indoor temperature range is 60°F to 70°F. Make sure the soil stays moderately moist.

Do you use the entire chive stalk or just the leaves?

Usually, just the green leaves are used, but the stalks and unopened flower buds are completely edible too. Chop or snip all parts of the chive stems to eat. Remove any woody, dried-out lower parts of the stalks if needed.


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