Sweet, mild-onion flavored chives are fresh top greens in the onion family of bulb vegetables. Its stiff, hollow, tubular leaves appear similar to that of onions, but smaller in diameter, and appear somewhat like grass from a distance. They should not be confused to green-onions, which are top greens of young, immature onion plants AND to scallions, which are top-greens of Allium fistulosum (Welsh onion). Along with chervil, parsley, and tarragon, chive makes the perfectly "balanced quartet" of classic French fines herbes (fine herbs).
Botanically, their bright green leave tubules belong to the family of alliaceae, in the genus: Allium. Scientific name: Allium schoenoprasum (common or onion chives).
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Chives are small perennial herbs growing in clumps, probably originated in Siberian highlands. The herb grows best in full sun and a well-drained soil. Its saplings can be grown from seed or divisions of 2 to 3 bulbs. Completely grown plant reaches about 8-12 inches in height.
In the fields, farmers generally prune its leaves periodically to check vogorous growth of crop. In fact, all plantings should be divided every two to three years to prevent over-crowding and root diseases. Unlike onions and garlic, chive’s tiny underground bulbs have unpleasant taste and, therefore, not sought after in cooking.
The flower stems, which rise directly from the base, grow slightly taller than leaves and bear small clusters of mauve or purple flower heads.
Some of different cultivars of chives include:
1. Giant Siberian (Allium ledebourianum),
2. Chinese or garlic chives (Allium tuberosum),
3. Siberian garlic types (Allium nutans).
Chives are very low in calories; 100 g of fresh leaves provide just 30 calories. Nonetheless, they contain many noteworthy flavonoid anti-oxidants, plant fiber, minerals, and vitamins that have proven health benefits.
As in scallions, they too contain more plant-derived dietary fiber than fellow allium members such as onions, shallots, leeks...etc. 100 g fresh leaves provide 2.5 g or 7% of daily-recommended levels of fiber.
Just like in other allium members, chives too possess thio-sulfinites anti-oxidants. Thio-sufinites such as diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide and allyl propyl disulfide convert to allicin by enzymatic reaction when its leaves disrupted (crushing, cutting, etc.). Laboratory studies show that allicin reduces cholesterol production by inhibiting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in the liver cells. Further, it also found to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal activities.
Additionally, allicin also decreases blood vessel stiffness by releasing vasodilator compound, nitric oxide (NO); and, thereby, help reduce total blood pressure. Also, it blocks platelet clot formation, besides having fibrinolytic (clot-removal) action in the blood vessels. All in all, allicin helps decrease overall risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and stroke.
Chives surprisingly comprise more vitamin A than any other allium family member vegetables. 100 g of fresh leaves contain 4353 IU of vitamin-A or 145% of daily recommended levels. In addition, its green leaves contain other flavonoid-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, and lutein. Together, these compounds offer human protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
They also have some other essential vitamins such as vitamin C, and K, in fact; chives are one of the richest sources of vitamin K, comparatively more than that of in scallions. 100 g of fresh greens provide 212.7 µg or about 177% of daily recommended intake of this vitamin. Scientific studies suggest that vitamin K has a potential role in bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
Fresh chives are rich sources of folates. 100 g leaves provide 105 µg or 26% of DRI of folates. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Adequate folate levels in the diet during pregnancy may help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
Furthermore, the leaves are packed with other B-complex vitamins as well as some essential minerals such as copper, iron, manganese, zinc, and calcium. The leafy greens contain several vital vitamins such as pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin in healthy proportions.
Chives can be available year round. If you grow them as potherb, the leaves can be harvested after plants are 6 inches tall. To harvest, simply cut the leaves 2 inches above the ground.
In the markets, you may choose fresh as well as dried (dehydrated) leaves. Generally, fresh-leaves are tied in bunches, and displayed for sale along with other leafy-greens.
Buy uniform, firm, deep green fresh leaf-bunch. Choose young leaves for mild flavor. Larger ones tend to have sharp, strong onion-like pungent flavor.
You may store fresh leaves in a plastic bag and keep inside the refrigerator. Dried leaves may be placed in an air-seal container and stored in a cool, dark place.
|quiche with caramelized onions, shallots, porcini mushrooms, ementhal cheese and chives Photo courtesy:dizznbonn|
Photo courtesy: qfamily
Chives are one of the most sought-after ingredients used for flavoring and garnishing recipes in many parts of the world, especially in the French and Mediterranean cuisines. They have subtle onion flavor, besides imparting bright green color to the recipes.
To prepare, wash chives in a bowl of cold water. Dry by gently mopping with a paper towel. Chop the leaves closely using paring knife in a way you desire. Add at the final moments to prevent loss of flavor (essential oils).
Here are some serving tips:
Closely chopped fresh leaves are added in sandwiches, soups, and cold sauce.
Garlic chives are popular in China, Taiwan, and Japan, where the fresh leaves used as flavorings in dumplings, soups, stews, and stir-fries.
In Europe, chives are mainly used as garnishing, especially in baked, or mashed and cream cheese mixed potatoes. Vichyssoise, a classic cold soup, is served with freshly chopped chives.
The herb is also used in muffins, scones, quiche, pizza, omelets, biscuits, etc.
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Research articles on nutrition.
1. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk (Link opens in new window).
2. Onions- University of Illinois extension.