Wild leeks, commonly known as ramps, are quickly becoming a culinary delicacy in the Northern Hemisphere. With a flavour best described as a green onion with a strong garlic smell, ramps are used in many springtime recipes such as soup and egg dishes, or pickled and used in salads, but ramps can substitute for onion or garlic in any dish. Wild leeks are a perennial plant that grows in old woods and ravines, so if you are lucky enough to find a growth area, you can keep going back to it year after year as long as the forest stays uncut.
Our lust for wild foods was well described in 1854 by Henry David Thoreau in his book, Walden, or Life in The Woods, where he wrote: “Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious. We can never have enough of Nature. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely.”
If you are like me, you are a city dweller who craves the country but rarely has a chance to forage for a meal. It is very exciting to see the return of the farmer's markets all across Canada. Wild leeks are one of the very first local foods available. They are so popular among chefs that you will have to hit the market early to ensure a successful mission of attaining these fantastic fragrant gems.
Pickled Wild Leeks
1/2 tsp fenugreek
2 tsp whole coriander seed
1 1/2 tsp fennel or cumin seeds
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1/2 pound cleaned wild leeks
1. Place the spices in a pan and roast them on a medium heat until they are fragrant.
2. Add the toasted spices to the rest of the ingredients and bring them to a boil.
3. Place the wild leeks into a clean container and pour pickling liquid over them. Cover with a lid and allow them to cool at room temperature.
4. Put ramps into the fridge for one week and then begin using them with everything and anything.