The Chive plant is a native of Europe.
Chives are the smallest though (some believe) the finest flavoured member of the onion family. They belong to the botanical group of plants named Allium, which includes the garlic, the leek and the shallot. Chinese chives (Allium odoratum) are actually garlic chives. They have larger leaves, flowers that smell of roses, and taste of garlic. Chinese recipes that date back 5000 years use chives.
The English name chive comes from the Latin cepa, meaning onion, which became cive in French.
Chive leaves are best known for their use as a culinary condiment.
Though Chives are said to be a native of Britain, they are rarely found growing wild. Chive grows in rocky pastures throughout temperate and northern Europe. Augustus Pyramus De Candolle, one of the greatest botanists of all time described the area of its appearence as extremely widespread acroos all of Europe including mediterranean Europe and as far north as Sweden, Siberia and the Kamchatka peninsula.
The chive was probably known to the ancient Greeks and Romans since it does grow wild in Greece and Italy. Rembert Dodoens, the Flemish Botanist gave the plant its French name: Petit poureau. This had reference to its grassy, reed-like appearance.
In present day French it is commonly called 'Ail civitte.' The Latin name of this species means "Rush-Leek."
The Chive has a distinctive smell, typical of the entire Onion family. This is a result of the presence of a sulphur rich volatile oil.
Chives are one of the “fines herbs” of French Classical cuisine, the others being chervil, tarragon, parsley, and sometimes marjoram. These are delicate, subtle herbs that are best used when fresh and should never be overcooked.
Potatoes and chives have a special affinity. Chives may be chopped and boiled with potatoes that are to be mashed, or chopped and sprinkled on mashed. The great classical marriage is however of baked potatoes, sour cream and chives.
Chives are used as flavouring, both fresh and dried in soups, sausages, croquettes and savoury puddings and pies. They may actually be used anywhere where a subtle onion or garlic flavour needs to be employed.
Chives added to turkey feed, flavour the resultant meat which is otherwise bland.
In rural India, garlic chives are used to make fresh green chutneys along with dried red chillies, coriander leaves and sour raw mangoes. They are used to add flavour to vegetable dishes made with a mixture of leafy vegetables (a collection of green leaves like spinach, amaranth, mustard and fenugreek greens).
They are also employed as an addition to potato curries to add flavour, and as part of the tempering (tadka) used to flavour lentil preparations (dal).
Garlic has the highest concentrations of sulphur in the entire allium family, and is therefore the most efficacious therapeutically. Chives have high levels of vitamin C and A, but only a limited sulphur content. Chives are therefore less useful therapeutically and more so in the kitchen and in the garden.
In the garden, chives are planted along plant borders as a deterrent to pests and juice extracted from the leaves and is an efficacious pesticide.
Fresh chives should be refrigerated if not being used immediately. Freshly cut leaves can be tied in bundles and wrapped in plastic por a damp cloth before they are stored in the refrigerator. Whole plants are very often sold in pots, since chives make excellent windowsill plants, require little maintenance and so that customers and cooks may have a fresh supply of the herb. The herb actually prospers if regularly trimmed, cut or harvested. Chives can also be preserved by drying or freezing.
Islamic tradition associates garlic and onions with Satan. It is said that when he left the Garden of Eden, garlic grew where his left foot fell and onion grew where his right foot had been. Inspite of this rather inaspicious linkage, several other cultures like the Rumanian Gypsies use chives in their soothsaying rituals. Other traditions, more gratifying to lovers of these herbs believe that bunches of dried garlic, onions and chives drive away disease from the home.The most complimentary belief, of course is that garlic is a defence against vampire attack!
The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
--Radhikab70 03:57, 3 August 2007 (EDT)