The Difference Between Chives, Scallions And Green Onions

If you’re a student in an online culinary course and you come across a recipe that calls for chives, scallions or green onions, take note that these three popular ingredients are not the same.

During the spring, these plants and herbs make their way into many culinary academy dishes, so it’s important to make sure that you know the difference between the three for your seasonal favorites.

Scallions and Green Onions

According to Chow.com, green onions and scallions come from the same genus and species, so they are remarkably similar. Scallions are basically onions that are harvested young while the shoots are still green and fresh. While scallions and green onions are of the same species, the variety of scallions known as “bunching onions” do not form a bulb.

Image of scallions tied with string on a chopping blockScallions, or “bunching onions,” are a special type of green onion that do not have a bulb.

Other green onions are harvested before the bulbs are fully formed, giving them a strong and robust flavor that is much more pungent than traditional yellow, red or white onions. These onions are popular in ethnic cuisine and are delicious when grilled. They have a mild and sweet flavor, and are the perfect addition to salads, omelets, and stir-fries.

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Chives

Chives are a completely different species altogether. In culinary terms, chives are really classified as an herb and often used as a garnish. Along with parsley, tarragon, and chervil, they are a key ingredient of fines herbes, essential to french haute cuisine.

Image of chive shoots on a chopping block, partially minced.
Chives are classified as an herb and used extensively in French haute cuisine.

Botanically, chives are an aromatic grass with pretty pale lilac flowers, which are also edible.

Chives are popular atop deviled eggs, in omelettes and other brunch favorites, and in soups or salads. They are also a delicious addition to soft cheeses, and can be stirred into soft butter as an alternative to garlic butter. Cook only briefly, and serve immediately, or the flavor will be lost.

Chive flowers are beautiful, flavorful, and often overlooked in cooking. Simply pull the flower petals off of the stems and sprinkle them onto your dish. Chive flowers have a slightly milder taste than the chive greens and add lovely color.

Buying and Storing

When buying chives, look for plump, uniformly green stems with no brown spots or signs of wilting. When buying green onions and scallions, choose those with crisp, bright green tops and a firm white base.

To store, wrap the roots in a slightly damp (not wet) paper towel, and put the rest into a loose plastic bag. Use within seven days.

The next time you’re at the grocery store picking out products for your dishes, know these differences between these small – but important – spring favorites.

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