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Photo: jin aili on Flickr

Where would we be without the allium family? After all, onions and garlic provide the taste foundation to the two greatest of cuisines, Italian and Chinese. Shallots are a subtle kick. Leeks are beguiling. But no allium has such unique charm, such amiable go-to quality as the chive. If onions and garlic are Luke and Leia, then chives are Han Solo. They add an essential edge to a meal.

Where I love them most is in scrambled eggs. If you’re eating a couple eggs, just add a tablespoon of finely chopped chives before you start cooking. After the eggs hit the plate, add another half-tablespoon. I also like to sprinkle some over fried eggs. They’re a great addition to a variety of dishes: salads, a summer pasta, or soup.

Chives have a mild oniony taste, but that doesn’t quite do them justice. They’re what grass would taste like if grass tasted good, with a subtle hint of sharpness and sweetness. They add freshness and complexity to a meal, with a mildness that makes them nimble (although it’s true that they’re not going to be powerful enough to lay the foundation for a sauce).

My mother grows these tubular sensations in Vermont so I’ve got a constant supply in the summer months. They flower, approximately, from April to June. But they’re easy to find at grocery stores and farmers’ markets. They’re a hardy plant, a perennial that happens to be the only allium native to both the Americas and Europe. I’ve even seen them sprouting in medians of the highway.

You can grow the herb (they’re part of French cuisine’s “fines herbes” quadfecta of tarragon, chervil, and parsley) on your windowsill, and they keep coming back. Just cut off what you want, near the base, and they’ll grow right back.

Once cut, they can last for up to a week in the fridge, but store them with a paper towel to keep dry. Or, if you want to freeze them, just chop and freeze. They do lose some of their flavor, but they’re still good in a pinch.

I’ve read that they’re rich in vitamins A and C, which is nice, but that misses the point. Loving the chive is all about appreciating the added frisson in a meal.

Inspired? Check out these recipes featuring chives: