WHAT IS IT?
Chives are the those cooler, more subtle relatives of the onion family. You use the small green stems, similar to its big cousin, the scallion.
From the more pungent end of the lily family, the fresh stems are often are used as a garnish that adds a touch of elegance and flavor to dishes, especially potatoes.
Dried, they pack some nice, subtle punch to foods that expand their flavor through added moisture, or fats, from frying, to boiling/steaming or just allowing the natural juices of meats and salts, to interact with them.
Chives serve up savory warmth, They are another step down from scallions in pungent punch, just as you might use a shallot, for subtlety, instead of garlic. Dried chive flakes lack the grassy quality of the fresh, but they intensify in a more robust savory flavor. They are a feature of cuisines across every region of the world.
Chives are widespread in nature. They are found across much of Europe, Asia, North America, and Oceania. They are the only one of the allium species which is native to both the Europe/Asia and the America.
Used in China, for millennia, they enter European cuisines during the Middle Ages, with some historical disgreements as to whether they were carried by the Romans Northward, or brought from Asia by Marco Polo.
We have little information about chives’ use in the pre-European Americas, although we can assume that one of the wild species was one of the many varietals of wild onion that could have been used by native Americans.
Coveted for their flavor, they’re grown pretty much all over the world, today. There is both the chive, and the garlic chive, which is more pungent.
Today, they are grown commercially in more tropical climates. The largest producer of fresh and dried chives is Indonesia.
Chives have been used for cooking, for at least 5,000 years, in Asia. It has been said that Marco Polo introduced chives into Europe, from China, in the late 13th century, but it is more likely that they made their way into Europe with the Roman legions several centuries earlier. Ancient Romans inherited a belief from the Greeks that the strong taste of a chive could aid in physical strength. So they fed them to both people, and work animals, to make them stronger. Peoples who traded with Asia introduced chives and leeks into the Mediterranean They are easy to grow, in a wide variety of climates, so they have disseminated, both in agriculture, and in the wild, all over the world.