At this time of year, the usual subjects congregate to debate the signs of spring. Maybe it’s the sight of the first red-breasted robin. Some don’t consider winter officially over until the arrival of wild leeks, while others practically burst into a jig at the sight of a fiddlehead. But for us it is the humble and irrepressible chive that truly means spring is here.
The great thing about chives is you don’t have to go foraging for them in mushy bogs or root around forest floors that still have a covering of snow. Ok, that’s actually a pretty great activity too, but there are days when you want to get that spring in your step without having to trudge into the hinterlands, and chives, resilient and prolific, the smallest of the edible onions, are just the herbs to do put it there.
If you planted them in your yard a few years ago, they are there now, spreading, waiting for you to snip them and adorn your salads or add that first touch of authentic semi wilderness to your soups. If you planted them in a planter on your porch, they will still be thriving in it long after the planter has been neglected or cracked apart and ready to retire. The pot may be ready for the bin, but the chive is indestructible.
Of course, you can buy chives year round in the grocery, just like most herbs, but there is something quite satisfying about not having to do that.
No need to get smug about it though, with chives you don’t really get to boast about growing them yourself; they did that all on their own, they are hearty little fellas.
More than just one third of the ubiquitous triumverate topping a baked potato, chives also have a high falutin’ pedigree in French cooking, as they are one of the fines herbes (along with tarragon, chervil and parsley) and are so versatile that once you get used to using them on a regular basis, you won’t consider a dish complete unless you can add the touch of colour, green or pink, to your plate.
So move over ramps and fiddleheads, for me, chives are the true harbingers of spring.
We’ve been obsessed with radishes and butter lately, ever since tweeting this recipe. Here is another great recipe from Martha that lets the chive take centre stage, perfect for an afternoon of April showers or May flowers.