The Chinese have been using chives to amplify the flavor of their cuisine for over 3,000 years. Traditionally, chives are planted around the end of winter and harvested all through the spring, making it a staple ingredient for Lunar New Year dishes. In traditional Chinese Medicine, chives are known to be helpful for strengthening yang qi. This means they support male fertility and increase overall warmth in the body.
How Are They Used in the Kitchen?
Chives are commonly paired with eggs. They can be scrambled with chives over rice, pan fried with a drizzle of soy sauce over noodles, seared into savory pancakes and crepes, or wrapped up into dumplings and buns. For meat eaters, chives are often paired with pork, seafood, or shrimp. For vegetarians, they can be served with mixed vegetables, tofu, or potatoes. Whether an active ingredient or passive garnish, chives are commonplace in the Chinese kitchen.
It’s most common to use the leaves, but some choose to add the buds, flowers, and stalks to their recipes as well. Pan fried buds and stalks can provide a crispy, fibrous texture while fresh, edible flowers can add aroma, flavor, and color. Chives can grow limp and dull if they are cooked too long, therefore, they’re usually the last thing to be added to a dish before being plated.
Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends the use of chives for the treatment of any type of yang deficiency. Everyday ailments such as poor digestion, low immune function, cold extremities, and even anemia can all root from prolonged yang deficiency. Beyond that, chives can be effectively used for regulating hemorrhages, addressing digestive and renal diseases, managing diseases of the liver, treating poison, or eliminating parasites.
Chives can also be used topically. The bulbs can rubbed on minor cuts and bug bites to ease the irritation. The leaves can even be ground into a paste that could be used as a cooling compress to reduce the inflammation and swelling of an acute wound all while providing soothing aromatics to calm the spirit and relieve stress. A tea could even be made with fresh picked leaves to be used as a mouth wash, or a light rinse for the skin and hair.
Chives might prove hard for some folks to digest and so it would be advised to chew slowly and thoroughly to ensure ease in digestion and elimination. Aside from this, unless there is some type of allergy or an aversion to the taste, chives are safe to be consumed by anyone within reason and season. In some spiritual traditions, however, chives are a taboo food, right along side garlic, onions, scallions, and leeks. The warming nature of these forbidden flavors are said to stir cravings, fuel desires, and insight rage – any of which can potentially set a cultivator back along their spiritual journey.