Here is a clump of chives, which I grew from (bought) seed when I wanted to increase the number of plants in the garden. and this is a clump descended from the plants I found here when we moved in over thirty years ago. They aren’t deprived or stunted, or in any way behind the larger ones, but a separate cultivar. In recent years the so-called ‘giant chives’ seem to have become the norm, and the rather wispier daintier ones don’t seem to be available. Although I have a preference for the smaller ones, there isn’t any difference in the taste or the performance of either variety – I think it must be down to ease of harvesting for caterers and supermarkets.
I love the taste of chives, so it’s as well that they are the first of the herbs to surface in the spring. The downside is that they fade rapidly after flowering – the Chelsea chop would be way to late for these beauties – and though it is said that if you cut them back to prevent flowering and extend the season, I haven’t found it to be the case. I cut a lot of extra chives just before the flowers open, cut them small with scissors – I’ve seen chefs use kitchen knives and I don’t understand why they make life so difficult for themselves – and freeze them in small tubs. You can spoon what you want straight from the freezer, and they survive beautifully.
The other thing it’s nice to do with chives is to make chive flower vinegar by steeping a lot of flowers in a jar of white wine vinegar and leaving it in the sun for a fortnight. The colour seeps into the vinegar along with a pleasant oniony taste, so you can make a very nice pink vinaigrette for salads.
The next herb on the list is supposed to be dandelion, but I’ve been waiting for the ones in my garden to come into flower to photograph them, and they haven’t done it. Everyone else’s dandelions flowered weeks ago, and some of them are showing signs of clocking, but mine are retarded. If they don’t hurry along, I may have to skip a few and feature the nettles, which are making far too good a show for my liking!
A quick reminder – I will be reading at the Art House in Ladybank, Fife this Saturday evening – more details to follow.