Chives, Green Onions, or Scallions, OH MY!

As part of my tasks at GoFresh, I take a lot of orders and get to work with some awesome sales people. Recently one of them called and asked me to check on the inventory for Scallions. Maybe you can relate…

“Scallions? Do you mean Shallots?”
“No, not Shallots, Scallions.”
“Are those like Scallops?”
“No. Scallops are seafood. Scallions.”
“I don’t follow.”

I felt like I was in an Abbot and Costello routine, produce style. Apparently, Scallions are similar to green onions which are similar to chives, kind of. How does someone know the difference between these or if there really is any difference at all?

James Cave at The Huffington Post helps clarify the confusion and even adds in another type of onion I was not aware of until now.

Scallions and green onions (not chives) are actually the same thing — alliums (specifically the genus and species Allium fistulosum). They’re long, green and floppy, with a bulb that doesn’t really bulge that much.
Spring onions, which also look similar, are scallions that have matured, have a bigger bulb and are spicier and more pungent than scallions.
Chives, on the other hand, are also alliums, but a different species (schoenoprasum), and grow like weeds — and for a few weeks in early spring can be found with pretty little purple flowers on them! Chives are much more pungent herbs, best used diced into smaller doses. Even better, a chive’s flowers are also entirely edible.”

The writers at Chowhound have more to add.

“Grocery stores label long, skinny, green-topped onions that have white bottoms as either scallions or green onions. But they are almost always the exact same plant, says Kat Barlow, a customer service technician for Territorial Seed Company in Oregon. Chives, on the other hand, are ‘typically considered an herb since the plant stays pretty tiny yet has a strong, pungent flavor that is good as a seasoning in smaller quantities.’ Specifically, green onions/scallions are the genus and species Allium fistulosum, a.k.a. the Japanese bunching onion or Welsh onion, says Dale W. McNeal, a professor emeritus of biology at the University of the Pacific in Northern California. According to Barlow, this species “stays small and does not form big bulbs”; she adds that the regular cooking onion (Allium cepa) may also occasionally be sold as a green onion or spring onion if it’s harvested early, before the bulb fully forms. The immature cepa has a stronger flavor than the fistulosum. Used raw, green onions/scallions add a bit of texture, color, and a milder taste to your cooking than regular onions. They are also delicious grilled whole.”

Now that we know a little more about these, how do I know which one will be right for my special dish? Adam from the site Vegan Food Lover talks about just that.

“Green onions taste, well, like onions. However, their flavor is less intense than other onions. If you want to add mild onion flavor to your recipe, green onions are what you should use. They also add color and texture. Chives are even milder than scallions, and the flavor is somewhat like a cross between onion and garlic. Chives are commonly used in salads, on sandwiches, and as a garnish, but those are only a few of the countless ways chefs incorporate them in their recipes. Chives are a better choice when you only want to add a slight oniony/garlicky flavor without adding bulk to your dish. Again, chives are an herb, so think of using them in the same way you would use other herbs.”

Here are some recipe ideas to try.

Chives: Tomato & Herb Salad with Fresh Chive Cheese

Scallions/Green Onions/Spring Onions: Baked Potato Soup With Bacon, Green Onion & Cheddar