Chives make for a delightfully springy salad dressing

LIV 4-29-03 AARON FLAUM Chives. Aaron Flaum/ Register (4-29-03)

LIV 4-29-03 AARON FLAUM Chives. Aaron Flaum/ Register (4-29-03)

“And spring arose on the garden fair, Like the spirit of love felt everywhere. And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.” -Percy Bysshe Shelley

Cheery daffodils are bobbing about in the light spring breeze. While hyacinths perfume the air with their sweet scent, the forsythia and azalea brighten the landscape with vivid yellow and pops of pink. Spring is here in full bloom, and the world is awash in color and fragrance. What a beautiful blessing during these trying times, to watch nature come alive.

As gardens begin to grow, one of the first perennial herbs to appear are chives. Chives are quite resilient and are particularly easy to grow both in garden beds or in pots. They can stand a bit of shade, tolerate drought, and grow well in any type of garden soil. For first time gardeners, this is an excellent plant that will yield a reliable source of flavorful nutrition.

Chives belong to the lily family and are part of a large genus of over 500 species of perennials that contain bulbs or underground stems. Known for their strong scent and distinct flavor, chives, along with garlic, onions, scallions and leeks are known as allium herbs. Allium species have been cultivated around the world for centuries and are valued both medicinally and for their fabulous flavor.

If you grow your own chives, you can continually cut them back so the crop will continue into early fall. However, I do like to let a pot go and harvest the lovely purple-pink globe shaped chive flowers that will eventually appear. These flowers make a gorgeous garnish, as well as a sprightly addition to spring or summer salads.

The hollow, cylindrical shoots of chives are best when used fresh. Rinse and dry them well, then snip with scissors or cut with a very sharp knife. Snipped chives can be placed in freezer bags and frozen for later use, but will not maintain the texture of fresh shoots.

This is an herb that will elevate so many dishes, including soups, stews, salads, sauces, marinades, dressings and dips. Adding a few tablespoons of chopped chives to cottage cheese will add a pleasing punch to a super simple snack. Make an easy supper of baked potatoes or sweet potatoes topped with Greek yogurt and chives. Mixing chives into light cream cheese, along with lemon zest, and a grinding of black pepper will yield an excellent spread for sandwiches or crackers. Omelets prepared with chives, parsley and dill are an absolutely sensational choice for any meal.

Chives contain valuable vitamin and mineral content. Vitamins K, A and C are found in chives, as well as calcium, an important mineral. Chives also contain small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Purported to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral, eating more chives may boost your immune system and assist in maintaining superior levels of health.

If you purchase your chives at the supermarket, look for a bright green color with no sign of yellowing or wilting. Chives will keep in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for several days. Before using, rinse and dry well and trim the ends before using.

Celebrate spring and its lighter, brighter flavors as you prepare your delicious life!

Light and Bright Lemon Chive Vinaigrette

Makes enough for 6-8 salads

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemon is especially nice)

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons finely snipped chives

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon crushed garlic (optional)

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sea salt

In a clean glass jar with a secure fitting lid, shake together the lemon juice, a pinch of salt and the sugar until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the oil, chives, garlic (if using) and back pepper. Shake again until well mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Drizzle over salad greens. Garnish with a chive blossom!

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.