By: Nutrition Expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Chives scientifically known as Allium schoenoprasum are bulbous hardy perennial plants of the genus Allium in the Liliaceae, or Lily family, cultivated for their onion or garlic -flavoured leaves and for their attractive and edible flower heads, rather than for their bulbs as with most other Alliums. The term chives is said to be derived from the Latin cepa, meaning onion (1).
Chives are considered to have originated from Asia and Eastern Europe and have been used in cuisine for a recorded 5000 years. Some popular common names of Chives are Garlic chives, Chinese leeks. Today the leaves are naturally used as a culinary herb with a mild onion flavour (1).
The plant was used in traditional folk medicine to stimulate digestion, treat anaemia, and enhance the immune system and to cleanse the blood.
A 1 tablespoon serving of raw chives is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of thiamine, phosphorus and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and copper (2).
- Natural Antioxidant
A study investigated the anti-oxidative properties of the bulb, leaf and stalk of Allium schoenoprasum L. (Chive). Activities and quantities of antioxidant enzymes and also the content of total ﬂavonoids, chlorophylls a and b, carotenoids, vitamin C and soluble proteins were determined. The results indicate that extracts from all plant organs exhibited antioxidant activity. The highest antioxidant activity was observed in the leaves (3).
- Heart Health
Chives consists of Allicin; which is one such ingredient from garlic that was discovered with the potential to provide beneficial effects to the cardiovascular system. Allicin was found to provide cardio-protective effects by inducing vasorelaxation and alleviating various pathological conditions of CVD, including cardiac hypertrophy, angiogenesis, platelet aggregation, hyperlipidaemia and hyperglycaemia. Allicin also enhances the antioxidant status by lowering the level of reactive oxygen species and stimulating the production of glutathione. It is concluded that Allicin can be potentially developed into a health product for the cardiovascular system (4).
- Immunity Booster
Considerable amount of vitamin C is found in Chives which is proven effective to boost the efficacy of the immune system by encouraging the production of white blood cells and stimulating the production of collagen that is an essential component in the creation of new blood vessels, cells, tissues, and muscles (5).
- Rich Source of Folic Acid
Folic acid is extremely important for pregnant mothers who want to safeguard the health development of their infant. Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in new-born infants, and chives are a rich source of folic acid for careful mothers.
- Eye Health
Chives also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids. According to some research, lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the retina of the eye to help prevent age-related macular degeneration. This means that eating foods rich in these substances could benefit eyesight.
- Digestive Health
Alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, saponins, and triterpenoids/steroids, which inhibit the growth of ‘bad bacteria’ and promote the growth of ‘good bacteria’ such as Lactobacillus acidophilus. Thus chive may be useful for the development of food products, especially probiotic food (7).
- Anti-microbial Properties
A study found that; chive oil inhibit several strains of food-borne pathogens in the laboratory level and E. coli in food. Hence, chives or chive oil can be used as an alternative to treat illness associated with food-borne pathogens (8).
Inflammation is associated with many common diseases worldwide. Phagocytic cells, and the oxidative stress generated by these cells play an important role in the inflammatory response. The resulting nitro-oxidative stress may lead to diseases, such as cancer, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, neurodegenerative disorders, atherosclerosis, cataracts, inflammation, and aging. Chives leaves contain Phenolic constituents, as well as allicin, b-sitosterol, and campesterol which reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Thus chives are useful as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of inflammatory diseases (9).
How to use Chives? (10)
- Chives are grown for the leaves that are added as flavouring agent.
- They are used in various recipes in the traditional French and Sweden culinary.
- They are chopped and used as an ingredient while cooking fish, potatoes and soups.
- The hollow leaves look like grass having a mild onion odour.
- The herb has clusters of rose purple flowers which can also be used in the culinary.
- Also known as Chinese chives, garlic chives have a violet colour. They are used in a similar way to green onion and garlic. This variety of chives is often used in the making of dumplings made with egg and pork.
- Taller than all other chives varieties, giant Siberian chives have more green-blue foliage and a richer taste.
- The chives leaves are snipped and used fresh for the flavour to make the dish tasty.
- Since overheating destroys the flavour, chives are added at the end of the cooking process.