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April 14, 2011

Spotlight on chives—the good guys

Since it’s April, I have decided to select a green ingredient for the ingredient of the month. Asparagus represents this time of year most commonly, but while it is basking in a spotlight of the culinary stage during the month of April, it is not the only opening crop during early gardening season.
I picked early chives. While you might find them on the shelves of your supermarket almost all year round, they are pioneers in my garden along with scallions and garlic.

These invigorating flavors, strong or subtle, along with dill, radishes, and sorrel were always associated with spring and early harvest for me since I was a little kid.

I chose onion's timid little brother not only because I like its mild oniony flavor—it is the smallest member of the onion family—but also because it has many nutritional qualities that are unfairly overlooked. I think it is because chives’ benefits are often compared to garlic’s and onions’ and in this comparison, they are rather faint. Never the less, chives are full of vitamins, enough to make it a main ingredient for a dish.

Alas, because of its size, I assume, it is mostly used as garnish or as an herb.

Chives are high in vitamins A and C, potassium, and calcium. Its sulfur compounds—sulfides and sulfoxides have antibiotic properties. Chives contain essential oil that can be extracted from fresh green leaves and used to cure fungus infection of the skin. Other health benefits, very similar to those of chives big brothers, include ability to lower the blood pressure and this aid circulatory system.

Although these little straws of oniony crunchiness grow wild in both hemispheres, farmers have also cultivated chives for many years. Chives were cultivated in Europe in early XVI century and became one of the staples of French cuisine along with tarragon and chervil. Chives are commonly used in fish and meat dishes or condiments. Most of the time, it is used fresh but you can find it in a freeze-dried form in your supermarket’s herb isle as well.
I have been growing my own chives for few years now in containers on my deck. I read somewhere that the beautiful purple flowers, which burst in a cluster, emanate scent that is pest (insects) repellent at the same time attractive for bees. That is why it is a good idea to plant them in or near your garden.

Add chives to your next soup or salad, baked creation or sauce to give your taste buds a delicate hint of onion flavor and crunchy texture! As much as I would like to come up with a dish that uses chives as a main ingredient, this time I used them as a secondary ingredient in my favorite salad and in Sloppy Joes.

These two dishes are very easy and will be ready in minutes. I have to mention that my joeys get jumpy for Sloppy Joes!


Chives Turkey Sloppy Joes for Joeys

Makes 8 ¼ lb sandwiches

2 lb ground turkey
1 cup chopped chives
½ cup chopped dill
1 generous T spoon dry chives
1 t spoon sea salt
½ t spoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 T spoons tomato paste
2 T spoons olive oil
1 T spoon balsamic vinegar (optional, not shown on the photo)

8 whole wheat buns (I used focaccia buns)

  • Heat oil in a sauce pan, add turkey, dry chives, salt and pepper, sauté on high until turkey is no longer pink (about 5-7 minutes) stirring to prevent scorching.
  • Add tomato paste, tomato sauce let it boil then turn the heat down and simmer partially closed for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add vinegar, stir, and then add fresh chives and dill.
  • Serve in a bun filled with about ¼ cup of turkey with some fresh vegetables and/or the following radish salad.


Chives and Radish Spring Salad

For 4 1-cup servings

2 bunches of fresh radishes, leaves and ends trimmed, quartered
½ cup (2-3 generous T spoons) chopped chives
2 T spoons chopped fresh dill
2 T spoons sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • In a bowl combine all the ingredients and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Serve with Sloppy Joes or as a snack.
For some there is an asparagus to remind the spring is here, for me it is this salad with fine oniony flavor of chives and fresh crunch of the radishes.

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