Foraging for Chives in Arlington

This Spring’s bounty was a whole sheaf of chives foraged from my local creek. Just that statement would make you think I live in some picturesque countryside, but no I live in a major city.

It turns that their are a ton of foods growing wild in every city just waiting to be picked. They can be wild mint which grows incredibly fast, onions like the wild ramps and leeks, and of course basic herbs and spices like chives.

The key to being a forager is jumpstarting your hunter gathering brain. We all have a built-in ability to smell, spot, taste, and remember plants growing in the wild. My story began on a visit to Mary Fletcher Jones to film a video. Before we started the interview she gave me a tour of her beautiful flowers and herbs. The tallest of her herbs were the chives and she even let me pick some.

Hint: Chives are a lighter shade of green and can be spotted among green growth by their pale green color and tall, thin and circular, often bent stalks.

The following day I was walking the dog in the park and spotted chives. I don’t know how I did it, my eye just looked at them and my brain said “yep, definitely chives”. Upon which I freaked out. You are not supposed to pick wild things! You could die!!

After a brief moment of panic I walked over and picked some. Yep it tasted and smelled like chives. I then got all bold and decided to put it in my dinner salad. I didn’t die too.

So the next day I picked more. The following day even more and so on. Until I had extra chives laying all around the kitchen prompting my girlfriend to revolt. You can’t just have all these smelly onions in our place?! Apparently her nose is particularly tuned to all things onion and this chive scent was overpoweringly appalling.

Not to worry, I thought, I will dry them and create a spice to use for later. Well this just made things worse. The baking of chives causes them to release so much more onion stink/sweetness that our place was being fumigated with onions. She couldn’t stand it and made me stop.

Eventually, while she was away on vacation, I did get them all baked and dried. They cracked and disintegrated into the perfect size for spicing. I put them into a nice jar and went away satisfied at my foraging ability.

I even went back and harvested a whole new group to double my winnings. They were tasty just long enough until my girlfriend sampled them a few times. Turns out she loves them and within a few days they were all gone!

So goes my first foraging attempt. The chives are still out there growing right now just waiting for me to forage. What a beautiful thing nature is!

photo by It’s Greg