Month: May 2010

Newsy Notes

P6290460We’ve had a great stretch of weather and with the holiday weekend I’ve finally found time to work in my own gardens rather than those of others. To stay focused on my quest to have all my tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings in the ground by Monday at dusk, I’m keeping this Newsy Notes post short. Plus I have basil and coleus seedlings to plant (looking forward to many coleus plants maturing like the one in the photo), cucumber, bean, and zucchini seeds to sow, and a ton of empty planters just waiting for some floral adornment … so much to do and, yikes, it’s almost June.

There seems to be some debate over the nutritional bang of organically grown versus ‘conventionally’ grown foods. A recently published review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition hints there is no nutritional difference. But studies have also hinted that organically grown foods have higher levels of antioxidants and some minerals. As with many areas of research, more studies are needed before anyone can honestly make a definitive claim one way or the other. My question: is it necessary to debate whether organically grown foods have better nutritional components? Don’t most people use organic food production and purchase organic foods to avoid unnecessary exposures to pesticide residue and other compounds such as antibiotics and hormones in meat and poultry? This is why I grow my gardens organically … why I purchase organically grown foods. If organic veggies and fruits happen to provide a greater nutritional punch I’d be thrilled. But the higher priority is getting more people to use organic practices, to cut down the level of chemicals spewed into our environment, to convince people to think before they spray. And I look ahead to a time when the term ‘conventionally grown’ means organically grown.

City dwellers and self-professed black-thumbers may find solace in the experiences of one Boston gardener who did not give up her quest to grow her own foods. She is Patti Moreno of Garden Girl TV. Read her interview at Living on Earth.

How do you use chives?

chives2 May is chive season in Connecticut gardens. The multi-purpose herb blooms in showy globe-shaped flower heads in shades of lavender that gently stand atop long slender leaf shoots. I have chives planted in multiple locations, some in perennial beds and others along a garden fence line. In other gardens I’ve observed chives planted in herb beds, living year after year in a basic wooden planter, and as a border along a perennial bed. All striking ways to show off the herb’s form and keep it close at hand for kitchen use. In a former … and formal … circle herb-style garden I created long ago, chives bordered the outermost edge of one of four equally-sized quadrants. Classic orange poppies grew in the middle of the quadrant. One year the two bloomed simultaneously and the effect was stunning (Sorry, no photos … before the digital age).

chives-lavenderIn my current gardens, chives bloom in three shades – a pale lavender, a darker lavender that photos don’t due justice to but trust me the flowers are definitely a darker color, and a pinkish lavender shown in the upper right photo. I cannot explain the slight color varieties in the pale and darker lavenders – they all originated from the same parent plant and reside in similar soils. The pinkish lavender clumps came from a different parent and may be a different variety.


curly chives My curly chives – picked up at last year’s neighborhood plant swap – are still small and have yet to show their flowers. But I love the sweeping curl of the leaves.

 chive vinegar jarsMaking chive vinegar is an annual ritual in my kitchen. My family saves various attractive glass jars to insure I have ample vessels to use for chive vinegar … and they get to share in this bounty.  In early morning as the dew begins to dry, I take a bowl to the garden and snap off chive blossoms just before they fully open. I drop the flowers into a clean glass jar, cover them with white vinegar, and set them on the kitchen counter out of direct sun. I’ve tried red wine vinegar it absorb the clear lavender hue that seeps from the chive flowers into the vinegar, so I stick with plain old ‘white’ vinegar. We all enjoy the colorful jars for a few weeks as the flowers infuse the vinegar with chive flavor . Once needed, I strain out the blossoms when I transfer the vinegar into other jars. Chive vinegar is tasty in home made salad dressings, German potato salad, and in any other recipe that calls for vinegar.  Try pouring chive vinegar over chicken before baking – it keeps the meat amazingly moist.

Chive flowers have other uses. Break off the tiny florets to add to green salads or tuna and chicken salads – the color gives salads a fresh look and a great, mild, onion-like flavor. Try chive flowers in scrambled eggs to impart a light, garden-fresh flavor to breakfast. Scrambled eggs with freshly diced thyme and chive flowers was a huge hit at my house.

Chives leaves can be used traditionally – on baked potatoes – but also in just about any type of salad that cries out for a subtle oniony boost. I also add freshly sliced chives to cooked dishes begging for a subtle oniony flavor – but do so just before serving since chives quickly go limp when cooked.  An easy way to slice chive leaves is to hold a bunch of the slender leaves in one hand and cut the tender shoots into useable lengths with scissors.

Garlic chives also thrive in my gardens – in fact they have become a real pest after I missed just one year of deadheading their flower stalks before they went to seed. Garlic chives have long flat leaves in contrast to the rounded leaf spikes on standard chives. In August, when other perennials look tired, garlic chives throw up beautiful white blossoms  This, and their garlicky flavor are two good reasons to grow garlic chives – use them similarly to standard chives, just don’t expect garlic chive vinegar to turn any color but clear. Still … and this is very important … be extremely vigilant in not letting garlic chives go to seed. Once ripe, the tiny black seeds spread with the slightest breeze.  If you let the seed head ripen , next season you will definitely find multiple volunteer garlic chives shooting up in unexpected places When established garlic chives can be thinned but they must be dug out by the small, easily missed, bulb. I have a ton of volunteer garlic chives slated for destruction.  At the same time, I cannot imagine having any garden without them.

Even with all these uses, I must be missing some other ways to use chives, and there must be other chive varieties. Do you have any other uses?

Is anyone growing white chives? How do they compare flavor-, blooming-, and growth-wise with their lavender cousins?