Chives and chinese chives

Other Names: Chives: Aglio ungherese (Hungarian garlic) or erba cipollina (Italian); cebolinha (Portuguese); cebollana (Spanish); chibu (Japanese); ciboulette (French); gräslök (grass-leek; Swedish); ha la (Vietnamese); kucai (Malay); schinopraso (rushlike leek; Greek); schnittlauch (cut leek; German). Chinese chives: Chinese leek; chiu or feng pen (Chinese); garlic chives. Flowering garlic chives: Gau choy fa (Chinese). Yellow chives: Gau wong (Chinese).

General Description: Chives (Allium schoenoprasum_) have long, thin, deep green, pointed, hollow leaves with a mild herbal onion flavor. Chives have been around so long that their origin is unknown. The most delicate member of the onion family, chives are mostly used fresh because they lose much of their flavor by drying, though they are often freeze-dried. Curly chives or German garlic (_A. senescens var. glaucum) has attractive, greenish blue, curled stems.

Chinese chives (A. tuberosum) are flat, narrow, green stalks with a sharp, herbal garlic flavor. Originally from Southeast Asia, these chives marry especially well with Chinese and Japanese foods. Yellow chives are Chinese chives kept from light while growing so that they are soft, mild, and tender. These chives are a springtime delicacy. Species related to Chinese chives are used in the cuisines of China, Tibet, and parts of Southeast Asia. In Nepal, jimbu or Himalaya onion (A. wallichii), with star-shaped purple blossoms, flavors dal, a soupy dish made from split mung beans. Jimbu leaves are usually dried, then fried in ghee to release their flavor.

Season: Chives are best when tender and green in spring. Look for blossoming chives in late spring. When chives are blossoming, their stalks are too tough to use. Chinese chives are best in winter, especially after a few frosts. Yellow chives are in season in late winter and early spring.

Purchase and Avoid: In hot or wet weather chives spoil quickly, so sniff before buying and avoid chives with an off smell or yellowed, slimy stalks. Commercially freeze-dried chives are best used for cooking rather than garnishing. The thinner and brighter green the chive, the more delicate. Later in the season, as they grow larger, chives get more oniony. Avoid chives that have dried out and turned brown in hot weather. Young Chinese chive leaves will be milder than older ones.

Storage: Chives freeze and rot easily, so store them in the warmest part of the refrigerator, generally on the top shelf. Don’t plan on storing chives for more than 3 to 4 days unless they are in exceptionally fine condition.


  • Make a bundle out of the chives and thinly slice crosswise. Or, using scissors, snip chives directly over the dish before serving. Chopping chives bruises them.
    *If the chives are thin and young, stick 3 to 4-inch chive tips into any soft food to make an attractive, edible garnish.

Serving Suggestions: Serve American-style baked russet potatoes with sour cream and chives. Pull chive blossoms away from their green calyx and sprinkle over eggs, salads, rice, pasta, or fish, or stick whole blossoms into the center of a dish for a garnish. Stir sliced Chinese chives into Asian stir-fries and rice and noodle dishes just before removing from the heat.

Food Affinities: Chives: Asparagus, butter, chicken, cream, cucumber, eggs, fish, leek, potato, seafood. Chinese chives and yellow chives: Bean sprouts, beef, bok choy, fish, pork, salads, water chestnut, yard-long beans.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com