Iris Clark Neumann: Chives are a versatile herb of spring

Chives are a delicious and attractive garnish to baked potatoes and a boxed pasta dish.

Sliced red peppers and Greek yogurt chive dip are a great snack.

A plate of scrambled eggs can be elevated by snipping chives onto them.

Some chives emerge from the spring earth and are weeded and ready to ourish in the garden.
By : 
Iris Clark Neumann
Food for the Neighborhood

I know spring is here when I can step outside and snip a handful of chives to add to something I'm cooking.

Fresh chives can be snipped into small pieces, when topping a dish, with the same scissors used in harvesting them. Add fresh green onion flavor to an omelet, egg salad, or topping a baked potato. Fresh chives give last minute sparkle to a soup or add a homemade note to a boxed pasta mix.

Although I am still recovering from surgery, the warm weather has made me choose low impact gardening. That is, gardening in a sitting position with a trowel and garden fork for digging out small dandelions and strings of quack grass roots from perennial beds. This is low impact because I normally attack spring gardening with a shovel.

Sitting outdoors I can enjoy listening to birds sing, see the first fluttering butterflies, and hear kids playing. 

Removing dry stems and leaves give a rewarding reveal to plants showing their spring rebirth. Chives are one of the first to appear, but oregano can surprise one too. Today, I harvested some of both, along with some small leaves from newly planted parsley.

Chives also give great flavor to the chive Greek yogurt dip that's one of our favorite recipes to demo at the farmers market. It serves as a topping for a baked potato or a dip for fresh veggies. An extra garnish of chopped chives adds a great presentation to the baked potato.

As I am not really back to normal, I've continued buying various flavored pasta mixes, for which one adds the pasta and powdered sauce to a measured amount of boiling water and milk. Like a miracle, this cooks down into a finished side dish. But adding chopped broccoli or spinach during the last minutes of cooking time, plus stirring in a can of drained white albacore tuna at the end, creates an easy and cheap meal.

Additionally, a garnish of fresh chopped chives gives this ordinary grub an extra special look and taste.

Chives are one of the easiest perennial herbs to grow. I keep several clumps of them because they are harvested frequently throughout the summer. Sometimes they get crowded by bigger perennials, so from time to time, I divide a clump and start new ones.

Onion chives look like a hollow tube when cut in half. I also grow garlic chives, whose leaves are flat, looking more like grass but their tip is rounded. I use both regularly in salads and cooked dishes throughout the warmer months.

During the winter, one can substitute green onions purchased from the grocery store.

I use an all cotton potato bag to make my “baked” potatoes in the microwave. A vendor at our farmers market sells these insulated bags that can cook two potatoes in about five minutes. Four or five will easily fit into the bag, but it takes a few more minutes to cook them.

There's also a vendor selling chive plants one can plant at home and that will keep coming up for years to come.

Onion chives have purple flowers, which can also be chopped and added to salads. If the flowers stalks are removed, the chive plant will keep producing new green spears for cooking all throughout the summer and fall.

Chives will also reseed themselves if the flowers are left on, but then one could give chive plants to their neighbors.

Omelets are another quick cook for a meal. Top with shredded cheddar and, of course, snipped chives.

Make your meals easy so there's plenty of time to spend outdoors for walks and gardening this summer.

Greek Yogurt Chive Dip

1 cup unflavored Greek yogurt

1/4 cup finely snipped fresh chives, plus extra for garnishing

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley, oregano, basil, or sage (or 2 teaspoons dried)

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients together. Use as a topping for baked potatoes or as a dip for fresh veggies. Optional: garnish with snipped chives.


Easy Pasta Mix Meal

1 package boxed pasta with flavored sauce

1 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh broccoli (or frozen) or chopped fresh spinach

1 can white albacore tuna, packed in water

Freshly ground pepper

Fresh chopped chives

Measure water, milk, and butter into large sauce pan, according to box directions. Bring to a boil, then stir in pasta and sauce. Boil for the length of time described on package, but add broccoli the last five minutes or chopped spinach the last two minutes. Drain the tuna and stir in at the end.

Top with freshly ground pepper and chopped fresh chives.


Cheesy Omelet with Chives

4 eggs

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Fresh chopped chives

Whisk together eggs and water in a bowl. Heat olive oil in a small non-stick fry pan. Pour in eggs and cook over medium high heat. When eggs begin to firm along the edges, use a wide spatula to lift around edges and holding the pan by the handle, tip to allow liquid eggs to pour underneath. When lower eggs are firm enough, carefully lift with spatula and turn eggs over. Lower heat, sprinkle with shredded cheese and fresh chopped chives. Serve when cheese is melted.