Are Chives Healthy?

Chives are an extremely popular kitchen herb that is at home in many herb gardens and also thrives in pots on balconies and windowsills. The spicy leek plant not only gives many dishes a special touch with its decorative appearance and aromatic  taste  , but also has numerous healthy ingredients. In addition, chives are said to have a positive effect on some diseases. What is in the well-known kitchen herb and what should you pay attention to when harvesting and storing?

Are Chives Healthy?

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) belong to the leek family, which also includes  leeks  and  garlic  , for example. In particular, the tubular stems of the plant are eaten, which   can score with many healthy nutrients .

Chives are extremely low in calories: 100 grams provide just 27 kilocalories (113 kilojoules). In addition, chives contain some vitamins and  minerals  in significant amounts. These include:

  • Vitamin C 100 grams of chives contain almost 50 milligrams. For comparison: in the same amount of tangerine there are only 30 milligrams. Vitamin C is important for the  immune system , among other things .
  • Vitamin E 1.6 milligrams of vitamin E are in 100 grams of the herb. It has a cell-protecting effect and should therefore have a positive effect on skin aging and heart health.
  • Niacin In addition to its role in the body’s immune response, niacin is also involved in cell division and energy metabolism, among other things. 100 grams of chives contain 0.6 milligrams of niacin.
  • Vitamin K With 0.57 milligrams of vitamin K per 100 grams, chives are one of the foods with a high vitamin K content. The vitamin is central to blood clotting, but also plays an important role in connective tissue and bone metabolism.
  • Potassium :  Chives are a good source of potassium. There are 434 milligrams of the mineral in 100 grams. This is required for the transmission of stimuli between nerve and muscle cells.
  • Calcium:  100 grams of chives contain almost 130 milligrams of calcium, which is important for bones and teeth.

The plant also contains  magnesiumironvitamin A  and vitamins B1 and B2. The secondary plant substances and sulphur-containing compounds contained in chives are also important for the health effects of chives.

Chives: effect on health

Chives contain various secondary plant substances that can have a positive effect on health. The group of so-called flavonols includes quercetin and kaempferol. Both substances have an anti-inflammatory and cell-protecting effect.

Another ingredient that should be highlighted is the  amino acid  alliin, which is converted to allicin by breaking down the cell walls of chives (e.g. when cutting the stalks). The sulfur compound not only smells intense and gives the chives its spicy taste, but is also extremely healthy. Allicin has an antibacterial and antifungal (fungus-killing) effect. It is also said to have a positive effect on LDL cholesterol levels, as it   can inhibit the formation of cholesterol in the body.

effect against cancer?

All three substances are also said to have a cancer-preventive effect. However, the relevant scientific findings have so far largely related to experiments in the laboratory or studies on animals, which is why they are difficult to transfer to humans. In addition, the studies on a possible cancer-preventive effect of foods containing allicin, such as chives,  onions  or garlic, come to contradictory conclusions.

However, allicin in particular is still the subject of research, as animal experiments have even shown an effect on already existing cancer cells. Allicin has cytotoxic, i.e. cell-killing, properties. Therapy with allicin could possibly take advantage of this effect by killing cancer cells in a targeted manner. However, there are no concrete results in relation to the application and effectiveness in humans.

Incidentally, these cytotoxic properties play no role in the normal consumption of foodstuffs containing allicin, because allicin breaks down too quickly when ingested with food to develop a corresponding effect.

Preparation: Are raw chives particularly healthy?

Chives are often eaten raw, for example in spicy dips, herb butter, salad dressings or as a decoration over many dishes such as meat or egg dishes. Rarely, it is also used in cooked form in dishes such as sauces, soups or stews.

For two reasons, however, it is advisable to eat chives raw and to add them to hot dishes just before serving. On the one hand, the plant loses its spicy aroma when it is boiled or roasted. On the other hand, the vitamins C and B1 it contains, as well as the sulfur compound allicin, are not heat-resistant and are therefore lost.

So if you want to benefit from the healthy ingredients in chives, it is best to enjoy them uncooked.

The chives are blooming – what does that mean for consumption?

When chives bloom in the garden, many people ask themselves whether they can still be eaten – and if so, whether they still taste good. In principle, the chives can still be eaten safely even if they are already in full bloom. However, the stalks on which a flower grows are often somewhat harder and have a sharper and more bitter taste than younger, freshly grown stalks.

Nevertheless, not only the bees, but also the gardeners* can be happy when the chives bloom. Because the mostly pink or white chive flowers are not only pretty to look at, but also edible. They have a slightly sweet taste and are suitable, for example, as a decorative side dish in salads.

Store, dry or freeze chives

If you don’t harvest the chives fresh in the garden or from the flower pot, but buy them already cut in a bunch at the market or in the supermarket, you can keep the stalks for a few days  The best way to do this is to place the stems in a glass with water, for example on the windowsill. Alternatively, you can wrap the chives in a damp kitchen towel and store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator.

Chives can also be easily  frozen.  To do this, first wash the harvested stems and dab them dry, then cut them into small pieces with scissors or a sharp knife. Try not to crush the stalks as much as possible so that no plant juice and thus no aroma is lost. You can then pack the chives in an airtight box or freezer bag and freeze them. The chives stay fresh for a few months in the freezer. If you want to use it for cooking, you don’t have to defrost it, you can use it straight away.

The stalks are not suitable for  drying  because they contain a lot of water and lose too much substance. The typical aroma also evaporates in the process. However, the chive flowers can be dried. To do this, simply cut off the entire stems plus flowers and hang in a dry, airy place. The flowers should not be washed beforehand, just shaken out to get rid of small insects.

Cut and harvest chives properly

Chives can be harvested in the garden from spring to autumn. Simply cut off the stems about two to three centimeters above the ground. Use scissors or a sharp knife to crush the stems as little as possible so that no ingredients and flavors are lost.

If you want to prevent the chives from flowering, you should cut all the stalks at regular intervals. The flowering period lasts from May to August. The plant is perennial, which means that it sprout again in the spring and does not have to be sown again every year. When it comes to location, chives are quite undemanding: they can be planted in partially shaded to sunny places.

Chives are winter hardy. To prepare it for the cold season, it is enough to cut the plant down to about two centimeters and then cover it with mulch or leaves, for example.

Wild chives can sometimes be found in meadows with nutrient-rich soil. It has a slightly more intense taste, but otherwise hardly differs from commercially available chives.

Recipe: delicious chive pesto

This delicious  pesto  tastes especially good on warm summer days. For one glass you need the following ingredients:

  • a bunch of chives
  • 50 grams of pine nuts
  • 80 Gramm Parmesan
  • 120 milliliters of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt  and pepper

Gently toast the pine nuts in a pan without fat. Cut the chives and garlic clove into smaller pieces and finely grate the parmesan. Then put the chives in a bowl together with the pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan and puree all the ingredients with a hand blender. Add oil until desired consistency is reached. The chive pesto tastes particularly good with pasta, but is also suitable as a delicious spread or as a dip for grilled dishes.


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