Hunting the Wild Leek
We just finished harvesting the last of the wild leeks (ramps) that we’ll be drying and using throughout the next year. This spring harvest season has brought about a lot of questions and confusion about how to live a sustainable life without a consistent home. Kerry and I have both moved around quite a bit over the past few years but are trying our best to settle down and make a stable home. Until that happens, however, we need to continue to spend time finding new harvest sites for each of the wild edibles that we depend upon for our sustenance throughout the year.
We were lucky this spring since we saw a lot of last year’s ostrich fern growth at our sugaring site and knew that it would be a great place to return later in the spring to harvest fiddleheads. From previous experience, we also deduced that the site could be a great spot for harvesting wild leeks, but when the time came, they just didn’t seem to be around. We drove the road slowly, peering into the maple forest looking for that vivid green carpet in early spring that indicates an abundance of wild leeks. We talked continually about how it was the perfect environment for them and that they “should be here,” though we both know that there are countless factors in nature that we will never understand about why a plant is one place and not another.
Finally, we decided to park and walk up a hill a bit, just on a hunch. We wandered through dried raspberry canes, and weaved through the maples, scanning every direction for the elusive wild leeks. “Well, I guess we’ll just circle around and back down to the car,” Kerry finally said, a bit of defeat in his voice. Just then I saw a hint of green a few hundred yards uphill of the direction he had started to wander. “Ok, well how about we head just a bit further that way” I said, and pointed to the hint of green way off in the distance. We exchanged a hopeful glance and continued closer, finding a wild leek here, and another there, until we were finally in the midst of a large patch that extended as far as we could see! That hunch sure paid off this time.
Once home, we enjoyed delicious meals of wild leek pasta, eggs with leeks, venison stews with veggies and wild leeks, and made a delicious leek pesto for eating with crackers. The rest of them, we chopped up and spread out on our window screens (which haven’t yet replaced winter’s storm windows), and let them dry before storing in plastic buckets for use throughout the rest of the year.