Thursday, May 17, 2018

One fell mashed-potato swoop

"Take these scissors out and bring back three or four green onions from the garden," I instructed Rachel.

We didn't plant them, but the former owners of our house did, so they're out there in the vegetable garden just waiting to be harvested.

Rachel went out and snipped off the very tips of the green onions and presented the puny nubs to me.

"Yeah, so, like...I mean, I want the whole stalk," I told her. "Cut near the bottom."

She went back out and brought in a whole fistful of pungent greens which I started adding to the mashed potatoes (we had "IKEA" for dinner again: cranberry sauce, meatballs, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables). But then I noticed that...uhhhh...these weren't green onions.

They were certainly green, but they weren't hollow. It was a little too late to pick them all out, but what could they be? Chives? Leeks? Those are also hollow...

"Maybe they're just grass," Rachel suggested.

That couldn't be the case because (a) it was pointedly planted in the vegetable garden and (b) it smelled like some sort of...something...not grass.

"Garlic," Benjamin said after giving the cut stalks a sniff.

We ignored him because (a) he's five and (b) that's not remotely what garlic looks like.

"Maybe they're daffodils," Grandpa mused.

"I hope not!" I said because (a) I hope my plant identification skills aren't that terrible and (b) daffodils are just a teensy weensy bit toxic. From The Poison Control Center: "All parts of the daffodil contain a toxic chemical, lycorine....Eating any part of the plant can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. These symptoms usually last about 3 hours."

We all bravely ate the mystery-flavoured potatoes, anyway (though I have a hunch that some of us picked around the green stuff (to be honest, those same pick-arounders probably would have picked around the green stuff even if they'd know what it was)) and we all lived to tell the tale. But I can't tell you how silly I feel for having served my family unknown foraged food, even if no one became violently ill (thank goodness for that). We had to identify this plant.

"In my defence," I pointed out. "It was clearly in the vegetable garden."

We ate their tomatoes from last year and no one put up a fuss about that. And tomatoes are in the nightshade family which is also slightly toxic (so why am I so terrified of rhubarb leaves when I come in contact with tomato plants all the time and haven't accidentally fed them to anyone yet?).

Andrew posted the mystery plant on twitter and several more knowledgeable friends (whose gardens are probably much more successful than ours is) came to our rescue—it's green garlic!

I sniffed my hands and, yes. Yes! Benjamin's nose was right! The faint smell of garlic was lingering on my fingertips. So I hadn't nearly killed my entire family in one fell mashed-potato swoop! I had merely served them garlic greens.


And I think that's the end of my foraging days. Foraging is terrifying.

This story reminded me of a story that I had never heard until recently. Perhaps it was at that little Hancock gathering at our house the beginning of April (which I haven't written about because life got immediately crazy—with Benjamin coming down hard with the stomach flu mere hours (minutes?) after all the guests left). Perhaps it was somewhere else. But I think it was there because I think it was Ron telling it.

Anyway, the story goes that my great-grandma May had attempted to make some fermented something in the kitchen—vinegar? Or...something? Grape juice...? But instead she made wine (or something) and the kids wound up a little tipsy. Maybe she'd tried bottling grape juice but it had fermented accidentally. I honestly can't remember.

I definitely should have written that story down right after hearing it.

But I imagine I felt similarly to how she felt when she'd discovered what she'd done.



  1. cute story! Glad Twitter solved that mystery - and Benjamin!

  2. Omg, yeah for benjamin! I agree with you om foraging. I'm always like, how desperate did humans have to be to figure out artichokes were edible but tomatoe plants weren't.