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Chives: Spring’s earliest herb

Chive blossoms (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

The bright green, grass-like tubular leaves of chives are one of the first perennials to pop up. They will last through the summer and past the first few fall frosts. This delicious herb grows well in our Adirondack climate.

Chives are versatile. They add flavor to potatoes and potato dishes, egg dishes like omelets, frittatas and quiche, and can be used to season vegetables and meat – anything that benefits from a subtle onion flavor. Chives are also great in salads and work well with creamy cheeses, yogurt and sour cream. Almost every savory dish can be improved with chives.

Used in China for thousands of years, they grow well throughout the northern hemisphere. Marco Polo gets the credit for bringing this Asian herb west into Europe; they have been part of European cuisines since the sixteenth century. Because their delicate flavor does not overpower other seasonings, French chefs use them as a seasoning and as a garnish. They add a gentle bite and vibrant color to rice, pasta, soups, salads, fish and egg dishes. They’re good on nachos and in quesadillas. Add them to the dough when making biscuits, scones, or cornbread. Use to add zest to dips. Their delicate flavor blends well with other herbs, and folks on sodium free diets have even used chives as a salt substitute.

Like other alliums, chives have antibacterial properties. They help improve digestion and reduce high blood pressure. Chives contain vitamins A and C as well as minerals potassium and calcium – and virtually no calories.

To preserve for winter, chop them fine and mix with parsley or other finely chopped herbs. Pack into ice cube trays, pour olive oil over them, and freeze. In winter, these cubes will give fresh herb flavor to vegetables, meats, and potato or pasta dishes.

Another way to store chives for winter is in pesto. Combine equal amounts chive and parsley, add chopped nuts and a clove of garlic, and pulse in food processor until finely chopped. Then add extra virgin olive oil with the machine running.

If you’re buying chives, make sure they have bright green, strong stems and are not limp or dry. To store, place in a glass of water in the fridge.

Chives are delicate, so snip them with scissors to avoid bruising. If cutting on a cutting board, use a very sharp knife. Add chives just before serving to hot foods, since their delicate flavor and bright color are diminished by heat.

Creamy chive vinaigrette

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste (dash pepper and about half a teaspoon salt)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons finely scissored or finely chopped chives

1/3 cup plain yogurt or crme fraiche

Directions:

In the bottom of salad bowl, combine vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil. Stir in chives and yogurt. Then add salad vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, etc.)

Makes enough for one large salad bowl.

Also good with a potato or pasta salad.

Chive quiche

Ingredients:

1 Pie Crust (store-bought or make your own – can be potato nest or a quinoa crust)

4 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 cup cottage cheese

1 cup (or a little more) snipped chives

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Oil pie plate and line with prepared crust.

In bowl, beat eggs; beat in milk, salt, pepper, turmeric, and cottage cheese. Stir in chives.

Pour filling into prepared pie plate.

Bake until set, 45 minutes or longer.

Option: Place 1 cup diced, cooked asparagus in pie plate before adding remining ingredients.

Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.

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