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Betsy holding freshly dug wild leeks.

Betsy holding freshly dug wild leeks.

I went leek picking the other day. Betsy, the dogs, and I hiked into a super top secret place I know of where they are abundant.

Years ago, when I first came upon this trove of plants, I thought they were some kind of lily. A sniff of a leaf quickly dispelled that assumption — smelled like an onion. The leeks (Allium tricoccum), also known as ramps, grow in the hundreds along a shallow brook. Every year, I make a point to bring home a handful. I love their garlic/mild onion flavor. They make for a more flavorful onion in onion dishes. In garlic dishes, they are a slightly milder substitute.

digging leeks

Part of the allure in harvesting these plants is the hike to get to the spot where they grow. It’s a bit of a trek, but there’s always much to see along the way.

A bigger part for me, though, is the whole seasonal phenomenon aspect. The ramps grow at a time when spring has found its feet. It’s something to celebrate. I’m not alone. Spring is time for the Ramp Festivals down south, where the tuber’s culinary accents are celebrated. They’re often accompanied by bluegrass music and the odor of ramp-fueled dishes cooking under the tents.

Our little handful of wild leeks should keep us festive for a while.

Blueberry season next…

Rinsed wild leeks.

Rinsed wild leeks.

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