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One of my favorite spring herbs comes in several varieties. There are the common chives (Allium schoenoprasum)–the GOOD CHIVES. These little plants are very hardy and survive snow storms and frost in the late winter to early spring. I just love to see them popping up out of the ground surrounded by snow. They have round tubular spear-shaped leaves. They stand about one foot tall in the garden and gently seed themselves. I try to cut all the spent blossoms once they are finished blooming so they are not a problem. They are easily grown from seed. My first clump was from a friend and they are easily divided once established in the herb garden.
Below is a photo of dwarf chives (Allium schoenoprasum ‘Nana’).
These dwarf chives would be perfect to use in a container on a south facing windowsill in the wintertime. I use chives in substitution for onions in salads all the time. They are much milder in flavor than onions. I also love them in eggs for breakfast, in Greek yogurt, and in baked potatoes. The Herbal Husband makes me a chive blossom omelet for Saturday’s breakfast right around this time of year. He tends to forget each year and uses nine whole blossoms in the omelet! Just use a part of one blossom–break the blossom apart and use four or five florets at most from the entire flower.
There is a website called Hungry Girl that I found when I was losing weight a couple of years ago. Lisa Lillien is the founder and creator. She is full of energy and really good, delicious and easy-to-make recipes. I love her egg mug recipes for quick breakfast ideas. (Particularly this one.)
The Egg Mug Classic
Per serving (Entire mug): 95 calories, 2 grams fat, 490 milligrams sodium, 3 grams carbs, 0 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 14.5 grams protein–PointsPlus® value 2*
MAKES 1 SERVING
1. Spray a large microwave-safe mug lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Add egg substitute, chives and cheese and stir. Microwave for about one minute.
3. Stir gently, and then microwave for another 30 to 45 seconds, until scramble is just set. Stir and enjoy! I microwave it for 1 minute, then stir it and microwave for 30 seconds more and stir it again and then microwave it for 15 seconds and it should be thoroughly cooked. Microwave times vary so you may have to play around with the time. I have an old microwave so it might not be as strong as the one you use.
Chive Blossom Vinegar
Another easy way to add flavor to your dishes is to make chive blossom vinegar.
1. Sterilize a quart canning jar with boiling water for 10 minutes. Cut enough blossoms to fill a quart canning jar halfway and fill the jar with white wine vinegar.
2. Put a square of plastic wrap between the lid and the glass jar. Place it in a dark place for at least two weeks and then test it for flavor. If it is to your liking, strain the blossoms out of the vinegar using a coffee filter or a strainer.
3. Add the vinegar to your favorite salad dressing, 1 to 2 tablespoons to any soup or stew recipe, or in anything that needs vinegar for flavor.
Here is a jar of vinegar steeping on my windowsill. It turns a beautiful pink color when finished.
Now on to the BAD CHIVES–garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). They are only bad if you don’t cut their flowers back before they seed. The garlic chive leaves are flat and have a slight garlic flavor. Garlic chives are excellent in stir fries and again in substitution for garlic. They are not as strong as garlic may be and for me that’s a good thing. You can use the garlic chive blossoms as well to make vinegar. Follow the directions above. They are about the same size in the garden as regular chives. They do have beautiful white flowers in late July or early August, but they are rampant self-sowers if the flowers are left to go to seed. I’m struggling to get the extras out of my herb garden! Here is a photo of garlic chives in August.
Also in that photo are my final chives, the curly ones, (Allium senescens var. `Glaucum’). They are the chives that have the pink blossoms. They bloom around the same time as the garlic chives in late July or early August. Unlike, the regular chives with green foliage, these curly chives have blue-green foliage. They are about four inches high and have a strong onion flavor, so unless you are an extreme onion lover, go easy when you use these in cooking. They would be perfect in a rock garden or a container.
Well-Sweep Herb Farm calls their curly chives ‘Silver Corkscrew’ and says they get to six inches high and nine inches when blooming. No matter what height you may buy, curly chives are a very decorative chive. They are used as a small hedge surrounding my statute in my herb garden. The regular chives and garlic chives can be purchased at your local garden centers. The curly chives may have to be mail ordered from Well-Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murray, New Jersey or Sandy Mush Herb Nursery in Leicester, North Carolina. Another herb farm that sells curly chives, but does not have mail order is Mulberry Creek Herb Farm in Huron, Ohio. One last source of mail order for curly chives is Companion Plants in Athens, Ohio.
So whether you enjoy the good, the bad or the curly, I hope you have a space for one of these spring herbal favorites of mine, chives. As you can see in the last photo, they are about to bloom in my herb garden.
Photos by Nancy Heraud
As usual, if you have any comments or you want to email me directly, you can do so firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to stop by my regular blog once in a while at Lemon Verbena Lady’s Herb Garden. Talk to you soon.