Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are the oldest and smallest species of the genus Allium, which includes scallions, leeks, onions, garlic, shallots, and elephant garlic. All of these species, belong, in turn, to the Amaryllidaceae family, which includes many ornamentals, such as the belladonna lily, tuberose, snowdrop, snowflake, daffodil, Cape tulip, Peruvian lily, and amaryllis. A perennial plant, chives are native to Europe, Asia, and North America. In fact, chives are the only species of Allium native to both the New and the Old Worlds.
The first recorded use of chives occurred in China in about 3000 BC. Chives were used in China to stop bleeding and as an antidote to poison. The Romans believed chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat, and that eating chives could increase blood pressure and act as a diuretic. Chives may have been reintroduced to Europe by Marco Polo in the 13th century AD. Chives have been cultivated in Europe since at least the 14th century AD. They were sometimes referred to as “rush leeks” (from the Greek schoinos meaning rush and prason meaning leek).
Romani people have used chives in fortune telling. Bunches of dried chives hung around a house were believed to ward off disease and evil.
Chives are very low in calories; 100 grams of fresh chives provide just 30 calories. They contain many important flavonoid antioxidant phytochemicals, fiber, minerals, and vitamins that have proven health benefits. Chives contain more fiber than other allium vegetables: 100 grams provides 2.5 grams or 7% of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber.
Chives contain several phytochemicals, including:
- Saponins, which lower blood cholesterol, decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, prevent cancer cells from growing and mutating, neutralize free radicals to prevent disease, stimulate your immune system by increasing the production of antibodies, fight bacterial and fungal infections, reduce inflammation, lower blood glucose responses, prevent dental caries, protect against bone loss, and increase the effectiveness of certain vaccines.
- Isorhamnetin, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects your body’s cells from damaging free radicals, prevents multiple types of cancer (including esophageal cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer), reduces the complications associated with diabetes (which include diabetic cataracts and high blood glucose levels), and helps keep your heart healthy by preventing arteriosclerosis (hardening and loss of elasticity within the arteries), preventing high blood pressure, and protecting your heart’s cells against oxidative damage.
- Allyl sulfides, which help reduce the risk of cancer by reducing the production of certain enzymes that convert cancer-causing precursors into their active form.
- Oxalic acid, which is believed to be successful in fighting several kinds of tumor cells.
- Allicin, a sulphur-containing compound that is formed when the chives are crushed, chopped, or chewed, breaking the cells, and mixing their thio-sulfinite antioxidants, such as diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, allyl propyl disulfide, and alliin with the enzyme, alliinase. Allicin can:
- Reduce cholesterol production by inhibiting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in your liver cells.
- Inhibit bacterial, viral, and fungal infections in your he digestive tract, including Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible for gastric ulcers that increases your risk for stomach cancer.
- Reduce blood pressure by decreasing blood vessel stiffness by releasing a vasodilator compound, nitric oxide (NO).
- Block platelet clot formation and provide fibrinolytic (clot-removal) action in your blood vessels, which helps decrease your overall risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and stroke.
Chives are one of the richest sources of vitamin K: 100 grams provide 212.7 micrograms or about 177% of DV. They contain more vitamin A than any other allium vegetables: 100 grams contains 4353 International Units (IUs) of vitamin A or 145% of DV. They also have some other essential vitamins such as vitamin C. Fresh chives are rich source of folate: 100 grams provides 105 micrograms or 26% of DV. In addition, chives contain other flavonoid-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, and lutein. Chives are also a good source of iron, copper, manganese, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Nutrients in 100 Grams of Fresh Chives
|vitamin K||212.7 µg||177%|
|vitamin A||4353 IU||145%|
|vitamin C||58.1 mg||98%|
|vitamin B6||0.138 mg||11%|
|pantothenic acid||0.324 mg||6.5%|
|vitamin E||0.21 mg||1.5%|
Chives are available year round. If you grow them, you can harvest them after the plants are 6 inches tall by cutting the leaves 2 inches above the soil.
In the store, you can buy fresh as well as dried, chopped chives. Generally, fresh chives are tied in bunches, and sold in the produce section with other fresh herbs.
Select uniform, firm, deep green, fresh chives. Choose young chives for mild flavor; larger ones tend to have a sharp, pungent, onion-like flavor.
Store fresh chives in a bag and keep inside the refrigerator. Put dried chives in an air-tight container and store in a cool, dark place.
To prepare, wash the chives in a bowl of cold water. Dry by gently mopping with a paper towel. Chop the chives finely using a paring knife. Add to your recipes at the final moments to prevent a loss of flavor and essential oils.
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. Fines herbes are a combination of herbs that are a mainstay of Mediterranean cuisine. The ingredients of fines herbes are fresh parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil. It may also include fresh or dried marjoram, cress, cicely, or lemon balm. These “fine herbs” are not the pungent herbs in a bouquet garni, which, unlike fines herbes, release their flavor in long cooking.
Fresh chopped chives add great taste to salads, sandwiches, soups, and sauces. Chives make an excellent garnish, especially for baked or mashed potatoes. Vichyssoise, a classic cold soup, is served with freshly chopped chives. You can also use chives in muffins, scones, quiche, pizza, tofu scrambles, and biscuits.