Here’s some of a Wild Food Wednesday on Wild Leeks I wrote for eatdrinkTC.com. You often find these oniony treasures when you’re morel hunting. Leeks are in the woodse now, and more than one little bird has told me of morels popping around the state as well!
Whether you know them as ramps, wild leeks, spring onions or by their scientific name of Allium tricoccum, ramps are a wild onion with a delicious & pungent garlicky flavor. Wild leeks are found from as far south as Alabama all the way up into Canada. To the south, they are more commonly known as ramps while in the north, wild leek is more common. Wikipedia’s page on Allium tricoccum says that “ramps” comes from the English word ramson, a common name of the European bear leek (Allium ursinum) that is related to our American species.
Regarding harvesting, Ramp-age at the Earthy Delights blog says:
Good ramps or wild leeks should have two or three whole bright green leaves with the small white bulb attached by a purplish stem. The leaves are generally about 6 inches long, although ramps tend to be harvested at a somewhat earlier stage than are wild leeks. Depending on where you get them, ramps or wild leeks may be still muddy from the field or all cleaned and trimmed. The key is that they be fresh. Yellowing or withering in the leaves is a sign that they have gone too long.
A papery wrapper leaf (and some dirt) may surround the bulb and should be pulled off as you would with scallions. Trim away any roots along with their little button attachment. The entire plant is now ready for eating.
Once ramps / wild leeks have been cleaned, store them in the refrigerator tightly wrapped to keep them from drying out (and to protect the rest of the contents of the fridge from the heady aroma). They should keep for a week or more, but use them as soon as possible after harvest.
Some wild leek facts & lore:
- Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger. (World’s Healthiest Foods)
- The name of Chicago originates from “Checagou” (Chick-Ah-Goo-Ah)means “wild onions” in the Potawatomi language. The area was so named because of the smell of rotting marshland and wild leeks that covered it. (Earthy Delights)
- Wild leeks are high in Vitamins C and A, and are full of healthful minerals. And they have the same cholesterol-reducing capacity found in garlic and other members of this family. (Earthy Delights)
- The entire plant is edible and leaves, especially when young, are delicious when sauteed. (my kitchen)
I’m especially happy to feature today’s photo because we buy incredible lettuce, greens and duck & quail eggs from Richard & Diana of Spring Hollow Farms of Buckley. If you see them at the Traverse City Farmer’s Market, be sure to buy a bag or two of their spring mix!