One of the most rewarding aspects of growing herbs is the ability to use their fresh flavor to spark up home-cooked meals. It’s even better to find a way to capture the fresh flavor of herbs for use during months when plants are dormant.
Common chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are blooming now in my Connecticut, zone 6a, garden. The narrow shoots of chives peeking out of newly thawing ground are often one of the first signs that spring is on its way, and chives’ globe-shaped blossoms are the earliest herb to bloom in my garden each spring.
I love the mild oniony flavor diced chive shoots add to scrambled eggs, omelets, and salads (potato, chicken, egg, tuna and green) as well as dips and fresh soups, so I use freshly cut and diced chives often through the growing season. I also love the color of chive blossoms and annually use these freshly picked flowers to flavor and color vinegar. I’ll refrain from any lengthy description of this process so as not to bore regular readers. Those unfamiliar or wanting a refresher can read the How do you use chives? post from last May.
Generally I have enough chive blossoms to make plenty of chive vinegar to fulfill my annual culinary needs and those of my adult children. I’m a little concerned about this year’s crop though. Rain has been nearly constant all this week, just as the first round of chive flowers opened. Many of the blossoms have quickly degraded to an unsightly mushy mass.
Fortunately the second round – the pink chive blossoms – are just opening. You can bet I’ll be outside this weekend snapping off enough chive blossoms to start my vinegar-making regimen.
Last fall, wanting to find more ways to capture that fresh chive flavor for winter use … and inspired by the many recipe ideas in The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard … I whipped up some chive butter. This involved dicing chive leaves, blending them into softened butter, rolling the butter into a tube covered by wax paper, and freezing. Throughout the cold-weather months I’ve used slices or chunks of this chive butter to flavor soups and sauces, baked fish, and homemade macaroni and cheese. The process really captures the fresh flavor of chives – a welcome treat during the dead of winter.
Chives are such an easy plant to grow. Give them well-drained soil, full to partial sun, and an easy-to-reach location to facilitate grabbing fresh snips for cooking. Small clumps grow two to three times larger in just a few years. When clumps become too large, a digging fork easily dislodges their root mass and divides the clump. Replant the divisions to increase your collection or share divisions with gardening friends.
I’m always on the lookout for new chive varieties – I currently have three flower shades of common chives (Allium schoenoprasum), garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), and ornamental curly chives (Allium spriale). I’d also love to hear of new ways to use and preserve chives. Do share if you have any suggestions or ideas.