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History of Chives as food

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Chive onions

How many of you know about the history of chives as food? I was not aware till my nephew read out “Toxic Chives Sicken 9 in Qingdao, China " from a newspaper. It may not be big news for us, but a Chinese will surely take note of it, because they are accustomed of tasting chives since last 5000 years (It’s only an assumption made by certain group of botanists).


The history of chives as a food item dates back to  3000 B.C, when Chinese started using it as a chief flavoring agent in many of their food preparations. It is believed that Marco Polo introduced this vegetable in the West. Generally Marco Polo is credited for the ideas of such migrations. There are no concrete evidences to support the earlier usage of chives as a food item or medicine until 1500’s. Botanical records suggest that chives became popular around 1500’s as food item, and also started appearing as a “must have herb” around the herb gardens of Asia and Europe. 


As per the folklore, Siberians enjoyed their chives and treasured it as a valuable herbal gift from god. It is believed that they gifted bunch of chives to Alexander the Great, when he arrived in Siberia to marry Princess Roxiana. This gift seems appropriated at the time because Siberians believed that chives were the most powerful aphrodisiacs ever known to man.   


Etymologically speaking chive is derived from Latin word cepa, meaning onion, which in turn became cive in French. Chive belongs to the family of onions, and it is widely known for its flavor. Unlike regular onions, this smallest member of the onion family doesn’t have underground bulbs, thus leaves are the only source of the onion flavor. Chives belong to the botanical family of Alliaceae, and belong to the species of flowering plants in the onion family. 


In medieval times, western gardeners cultivated chives as ornamental plants around their fences, and also used it for warding away several insects. Romanian gypsies used chives for fortune telling.  


In the late 19th century chives were extensively used in preparation of creams, soups and sauces in the west. In his famous cookery book Attempt at a Flora (Försök til en flora) by Retzius , he speaks in great detail about using chives in preparation of pancakes, fish, sandwiches and soups. Chives were also used in preparation of treasure drinks such as Chives Vinegar, which is very much in demand today, as it was a century ago. 


Chives can be cultivated throughout the year, and its violet flowers can add charm to your dry bouquet too. 


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History Of Chives As Food