July 23, 2024

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In Search of Wild Leeks, Allium tricoccum

It’s Springtime here in the Adirondacks which could only mean one thing, that it’s time to hunt down the incredibly tasty Wild Leek, cook up a huge pot of Potato Leek soup and celebrate the end of a long dreary winter. Wild Leeks, Allium tricoccum  aka, ramps, wild garlic, spring onion or wood onion are found in rich woods in the Northeast. leekleaf Wild Leeks are best identified by their leaves which grow in pairs. The leaves are elliptical in shape 5 to 10 inches long with a smooth margin. They have a kind of waxy feel to them and they are light green in color.  Each leaves stalk is reddish purple tinged becoming lighter as it gets closer to the leaf base.  Wild Leeks tend to grow in large colonies. On my hike yesterday I saw hundreds of thousands of Wild Leeks growing, in some areas the plants completely covered the ground. If you were to crush or crumple one of the leaves it would have a strong oniony garlic scent to it.  Just below the soil a few inches is where you’ll find the meaty bulb of the plant.  There’s no reason to dig up the bulb, you don’t want or need to disturb the soil, simply grasp the lower leaf leekmeatstalk and with a quick tug the bulb should come free. You’ll see that the bulb is encased in a somewhat transparent skin and once pulled off the pure white flesh is exposed. Both the leaves and the bulb are edible and to me have a very pleasant oniony garlic flavor. If you’re lucky enough to find a patch of woods where Wild Leeks are growing take special care to not overharvest the plant. Take only enough to prepare a meal or two and you should only remove one or two of the bulbs from each colony.  Overharvesting of Wild Leeks in some states has actually led to the plant be listed as a species of concern and in some parts of Canada the plants are protected and possession of them is illegal. Once the leaves begin to yellow and wither the are no longer desirable and only the bulb should be eaten. Here’s one of my favorite recipes and one I look forward to every Spring.

Wild Leek and Potato Soup

4-6 slices bacon (optional)  4 cups chopped wild leeks, including greens
4-5 diced red potatoes
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream  Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, fry bacon until crispy. Set bacon aside. Add leeks and potatoes to the skillet; fry on medium-low heat until leeks are tender. Sprinkle with flour; stir until flour is absorbed. Stir in chicken broth and simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in cream and heat thoroughly. Add crumbled bacon and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped leek leaves if desired. Serves 4-6.
Enjoy and please practice sensible conservation of this species!