So many chives! Although we had not cared for, planted or even visited our community garden plot until yesterday, we arrived to find a ridiculous amount of lush chives to harvest. Now in their fifth year, our plants are apparently robust enough to take care of themselves and provide a hands-off first spring crop for us to enjoy.
Since they are growing so fast and well, we decided to cut them back completely and found ourselves with a big bag full of oniony greens. After eating our fill on pea soup and on toast with cream cheese, we preserved the rest as pesto and herb butter.
I wouldn’t really recommend the chive pesto recipe, to be honest, because it turns out that the long, stringy fibers in chives become tangled and matted in the blender, creating something that looks more like grass clipping puree than something you’d be excited to eat. However, I have successfully used the same recipe to preserve other, less stringy herbs – bärlauch, for example – so I’ll share the recipe, as well as the recipe for herb butter, in case you are growing, foraging or marketing some fresh spring herbs as well.
Simple herb pesto
1-2 cups fresh herbs you’d like to preserve
1. Clean, dry and chop herbs.
2. Blend together with enough olive oil to form a creamy paste. This is easier to do with an immersion blender. If you have a regular blender, be prepared with a rubber spatula and a lot of patience, as the pesto tends to wind up all over the sides of the blender container.
3. Pack into a small jar, with a little extra olive oil poured on top, and store in the fridge. Keeps for several weeks.
The pesto can be used directly for spreading on bread and sandwiches, or stirring into soups and sauces as a seasoning. To use it on pasta, add some parmesan, salt, and, if the herb you used is not an oniony one, you can add some minced or pressed garlic. Thin with some pasta cooking water to make a creamy sauce.
I learned about herb butter from my mom-in-law, Monika, who has a terrific herb garden in her backyard. At the height of the season, she makes pounds of butter and always gives us a big bowlful. It’s great on bread, as a seasoning for cooking, and of melted on top of steaks and grilled dishes.
1-2 cups of fresh herbs (a single herb or whatever mix tastes good to you)
At least a handful of chives, onion and/or garlic
About 2 sticks or 250 grams butter, at room temperature
1. Mince the herbs (and onion, if using), very finely.
2. Cut the butter into large pieces and place in a large bowl with the herbs.
3. Now you have a choice:
- If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, gently mix everything together with your hands.
- Otherwise, use a immersion mixer to blend the butter and herbs together.
If you choose to use a mixer, keep the blending to a minimum and be warned that the process kind of mashes the herbs and releases a lot of green juices from the herbs which tend to make the butter spoil faster, in my experience.
4. Season with salt and pepper if you like
If you plan to use the butter soon, pack it into a bowl or Tupperware and keep covered in the fridge. If you want to store the butter longer, roll it into a log, wrap in foil, and store in the freezer. This will make it easy to slice off pieces as needed.
Usually, I follow Monika’s recipe, which includes lots of chives, basil, thyme, oregano, summer savory and onion, with a little bit of lovage. If you have access to a lot of herbs this summer, I recommend her combination. But as I did today, you can also make the butter with just one herb. One of my favorite cookbooks, by Simon Hopkinson, notes that a bit of anchovy or Pernod can be a nice touch in herb butters, but I’ve yet to try his suggestions. But feel free to improvise.
Well, I hope these simple recipes inspire you to enjoy the herbs of spring! Stay tuned for more urban gardening and foraging adventures.