Fresh, finely chopped chives are used to enhance the flavour of fish, veal, poultry, egg and vegetable dishes. They should be added at the end of cooking, however, because chives' essential oils are quickly destroyed by heat. They are also used to flavour butter, cheese, salads, soups, salad dressings and egg- and yoghurt-based sauces. Chives go well with tarragon, parsley and chervil.
The flowers can be separated from the floral bud and added to egg, cheese and fish dishes.
Early and regular harvesting prevents blooming and encourages the plant to produce new, narrow and tender leaves all summer long. The leaves can be harvested initially once they are 15 to 20 cm tall. Remove small bunches of leaves, keeping just 5 to 7 cm of stem, to encourage the plant to produce new leaves. Cutting the stems back closer than 5 cm from the ground can cause the plant to die back prematurely.
All the stems can also be harvested at once, and then dried. In that case, cut the plant back to 5 to 7 cm from the ground. New, ready to harvest leaves will appear within 4 to 6 weeks.
Chives are less flavourful when dried. They are best fresh or frozen.
- Fresh: Chives may be kept for about one week in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator vegetable drawer.
- Frozen: The leaves may be frozen in ice cubes.
- Dried: Cut the leaves into 6 to 10 millimetre lengths and spread them out to dry in a warm, dark, well-ventilated location. Once dry, store the leaves in an opaque, airtight container.