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Local food: Chives

Posted Apr 20 2010 12:00am
Here’s my idea for a new cable TV show: The Distracted Gardener. It would be aimed at people who start out the season with all good intentions, but then forget to thin their seedlings or water during a drought or top-dress with compost or -- the biggest no-no -- let the weeds get ahead of them.

All right, so I’m talking about myself. I’m a Distracted Gardener, a person who does best with the sorts of plants that thrive on neglect. My track record with things that need coddling or staking or fussing over is not nearly so illustrious. My most successful crop ever? Chives.

Chives are a perennial member of the onion family. They’re the first vegetable I harvest every year (sometimes the only one), and if you don’t count sprinkling some seeds in the garden about ten years ago, I’ve done absolutely nothing to maintain them. Chives just laugh at weeds -- they elbow them out of the way. Their sturdy green shoots pop up out of the cold, muddy ground first thing in the spring, even before the snow has disappeared. Chives also display lovely purple blooms in May and June, so they wouldn’t be out of place in your flower garden.

I add chopped chives to a variety of dishes all spring and summer long. They’re one of the most-used herbs in my kitchen. Their mild oniony flavor is perfect in anything having to do with eggs or potatoes -- -- omelets, scrambled eggs, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potato salad, you get the idea. Chives are also great sprinkled on broiled fish, or as a garnish on any creamy soup. The other night, I tossed a handful of chopped chives on top of a pan of nachos, where they stuck to the melted cheese in a decorative and delicious sort of way.

As for their nutritional benefits, chives contain significant amounts of vitamin C, and like all their cousins in the onion family, they’re full of organic sulfur compounds that lower your blood pressure and decrease clot formation. These compounds have also been shown to help prevent cancer and regulate your blood sugar (though I imagine you’d have to eat a lot of chives for that to happen).

Since chives are so mild-tasting, it’s best to add them to a dish toward the end of its cooking time so as to preserve their nutrients and bright green color. Better yet, just use them raw.

Here’s a recipe for egg salad with chives that I make frequently in the summertime. (In the winter I leave out the chives, but it’s not the same.)

Summery Egg Salad

4 eggs
2 Tb. mayonnaise
2 tsp. dijon mustard
a pinch of salt
fresh-ground pepper to taste
2-3 Tb. chopped chives

Put eggs in a small saucepan. Fill the pan with water so the eggs are completely submerged. Bring to a rolling boil, then turn the heat down to its lowest possible setting, cover the pan, and set a timer for 15 minutes.

At the end of 15 minutes, drain the eggs and place in a bowl filled with ice-cold water (you can also add some ice) to stop the cooking process. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them, place in a bowl, and mash them with a fork to the consistency you like.

Add mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper and mix until well blended. Add chives and mix.

Makes 2-3 egg salad sandwiches.

Text copyright © 2010 Eleanor Kohlsaat LLC
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