A close relative of onion, chives provide a convenient and colorful way to add a delicate onion taste to a wide variety of dishes. A handy item for the pantry, dried chives spruce up sour cream, soups, salads, dressings, and any casserole.
The species name, Allium schoenoprasum, is derived from the Greek word schoinos, meaning "rush" (a kind of grass) and prason, or "leek." Other members of the Allium family are onions, green onions, and garlic. The English word chive may come from the Middle English cheve, or cyve, derived from the French cive. The German word for the plant is schittlauch, or "cuttable leek," and the Chinese name means "thin fragrant green onions."
A hardy perennial that grows in clumps from bulbous roots, chives reach about eight to 20 inches in height. The leaves (which are the part used for their mild oniony taste and aroma) are straight, hollow, and soft, and come to a point at the top. Pink to purple flowers grow in spheres in June and July.
Freeze-dried chives retain their color and freshness best.
Dried chives are a great staple in any kitchen. Use them to conveniently add delicate onion flavor to cheese, egg or potato dishes, salads, stir fries, vinegars, sour cream, cream cheese, herb butters, sauces (cream and tomato) and soups (vichyssoise in particular, but any creamy, cold, or vegetable soup). You'll find chives in recipes for fines herbes blends and in many European, Southeast Asian, and Chinese dishes.