When you go from a condo in the city to a single-family house in the suburbs, you notice a few things: The cars are bigger, there are more kiddies and dogs running amok and “keeping up with the Joneses” is definitely a thing. We’ve had to adjust to living in a house in many ways as a result. Example: maintaining our lawn to avoid embarrassment over our general lack of motivation to complete household chores. That means sweating over a lawnmower in the summer, sweating over a rake in the fall–and, presumably, sweating over a shovel in the winter, which we are not looking forward to.
During our yard-maintenance adventures, though, I’ve also noticed something else–patches of taller, thin grasses scattered throughout the front and back that smell remarkably like chives or onions. I’d always wondered whether they were edible, as my online research indicated that the grasses are most likely wild onions, which are considered weeds in these parts.
Yesterday, while preparing a New Year’s Eve dinner of pan-fried salmon with white wine-shallot reduction, green beans and creamy mashed potatoes, I was inspired to cut some wild onions and experiment with them in my potatoes. Of course, that was after extensive research about whether they were edible and determining that they were not poisonous and ominous-sounding death camas, which people often mistake wild onions for.
The result? Delicious potatoes. And we didn’t sick or die, which is always a good thing.
The whole experience made me curious about what other delicious plants might be growing back there that we don’t know about. I know foraging has seen a resurgence in popularity over the years, particularly among hipster try-hards and Michael Pollan disciples, but I’ve never considered trying it myself. That’s mainly because the idea of playing gustatory Russian roulette with wild plants doesn’t sound very appealing. I’ve seen Into the Wild. I know what’s up.
Plus, there was a particularly scary chapter about mushroom foraging from Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” that made me especially paranoid–it was about how one particular poisonous mushroom can LIQUIFY. YOUR. INSIDES. Terrifying.
Of course, I suppose being self-sufficient by foraging is rewarding. And not having to make a special trip to the supermarket for one ingredient is pretty great. I’m just glad we didn’t usher in 2012 hugging a toilet and rueing the day we let our curiosity about those mysterious grasses in the backyard overcome our sense of self-preservation.