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Ontario Wild Leeks (aka Ramps)

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Does anyone know when wild leeks are ready for harvest in Ontario?
Also where they can be bought in, or around, the GTA?
I've heard rumours that you can only harvest them on private land in Ontario because of over picking. Is this true?

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  1. Your guesses are pretty much right on. They are at their peak now, they are unlikely to be seen in a GTA retail outlet, and they are generally found on private property(like abandoned strawberry farms) and on the Bruce Peninsula (where it is illegal to pick them).
    There is a wild "bear" garlic that is more common around this time of year as well that a lot of people call "ramps" but the taste is , well , more like green garlic. Only way to get ramps probably is to "know a guy".

    5 Replies
    1. re: woodenhorse

      I have been unable to find any restriction on picking common wild leeks, or allium tricoccum, which are listed as "secure" by MNR. There is a variant however, the narrow leafed wild leek, or allium burdicki, which is listed as endangered.

      Woodenhorse, can you tell me where you encountered the restriction? I found a patch of ramps and want to be absolutely sure of my ground before I touch them.

      1. re: DockPotato

        Harvesting or selling wild leeks is illegal in Quebec, where overharvesting has threatened its survival, but not in any other province. However, ethical harvesters take no more than 5 to 10 percent of a patch, so it can regenerate, according to David Forbes in issue 4 of Slow Canada, the newsletter of Slow Food Canada.

      2. re: woodenhorse

        I too am unaware of any restriction for picking them other than the Bruce Trail's motto (borrowed from the Sierra Club) of "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures". I've hiked most of the Bruce trail, sometimes with club members who forage for mushrooms, berries, apples from abandoned orchards and nearly anything that is edible. The exception is wild flowers because they must be allowed to seed themselves.

        One year my spouse and I were hiking near Collingwood while staying at the Bield House Country Inn and Spa. I asked the owner if the chef would be willing to cook any ramps that we found and when he agreed, I filled my backpack. That night we dined on shilled ramp soup and steamed ramp greens. It was wonderful.

        1. re: Higgette

          Do you know about frozen apples?

          There is no telling what the fruit is like on those wild trees. They range from sour/tart to very, very classy that you can't buy. However, the fruit on those wild trees bloom, rot and dry. In the process they ferment and then freeze if the deer can't get at them, and the freezing concentrates the flavour and alcohol content through reverse distillation.

          Those apples are good.

          1. re: DockPotato

            Yes, I eat them when I see them but I didn't know about the frozen version. That would explain Iced Cider. I saw ramps while out on a hike on Wednesday in the Mono Cliffs area but I didn't pick any because they weren't plentiful and I had my fill that one time.

            I would really like to learn more about mushrooms because I see a great variety in the fall, particularly in the Hanilton/Dundas section of the trail.

      3. We are heading up to Michael Stadtlander's Ramps and Maple Syrup Festival / Food Fest in two weeks so they had better be ready by then. BTW, maple syrup season will definitely be finished in Ontario this weekend.

        Note: $150 bucks to "know the guy".

        5 Replies
        1. re: Mila

          Mila, how did you get the information on this event? I googled it and couldn't find anything.

          1. re: mickeyj

            Friends in the biz.

            You can give a call up to the farm but they are notoriously hard to get on the phone. 519-922-3128
            If that doesn't work Adam at Oyster Boy is a good contact. They will be there this year (love the house made out of oyster shells) as well as Hiro, John Higgins, Claudio Aprile and others.

            It's a really fun, casual day though the price is up to $150 compared to last year's $55.

            1. re: Mila

              Thanks Mila. What is the date (before I try to track it down I want to see if I'm free that day)?

              1. re: mickeyj

                Sunday May 6th. I believe it starts noonish.

                It's a fun day, but casual. Wear good walking shoes for clambering around the farm with some spring weather mud. And don't wear white, last year I spilled so much red wine on my white jacket that I had to wash it in the pig's trough.

                1. re: Mila

                  Thanks Mila.

        2. ramps, for sure are in but not till next week as far as my supplier tells me!! as regards whrere to pick them i have no idea!!

          1. I have seen them starting to come up. But I would say they really won't be at their peak - at least not in central Ontario - for another couple of weeks. The leaves are still quite small.

            In fact, this reminds me to go check the spot in my woods where I planted some last spring.

            1. I bought some last year from the produce seller whose stand is right outside the TD Green Machine kiosk at the north St. Lawrence Market. They were gorgeous - we had them with salmon. I do hope they are available this weekend or next at market!

              2 Replies
              1. re: AmandaEd

                by the way, stadtlander's wild leek festival is apparently sold out already. sorry.

                1. re: AmandaEd

                  I found them there too. There were a few vendors at the Market with them. amazing, never cooked with them before but such an amazing flavour!

                2. If what I ate last night were indeed ramps (my husband told me they were wild leeks, so I'm making an assumption here,) we got them at the Carrot Common. He braised them in a wee bit of butter and chicken stock. Lovely!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cchrish

                    We got some at the Big Carrot on the weekend - the sign said "wild leeks". I braised them in butter and they were delicious (chopped up the bulbs, braised til tender and then added the leaves and cooked a min or 2 until they wilted) - however we had no way to tell if they were the real thing since neither my husband or I had tried them before.

                  2. I've been able to get ramps at the peripatetic organic farmers' market in Toronto (different locations, different days). Anyone care to share their favourite recipe for them? As an above posting, I also serve them sauteed, over pasta: olive oil, salt, a very light sprinkle of chili flake, and white wine. God... I'm salivating at the thought.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hungry_pangolin

                      I just bought a whole bunch from Philz in St. Lawrence Market - lower level, just north of the western set of stairs, behind the caviar and truffles kiosk.

                      1. re: alisonb

                        Wild leeks in southern Ontario can be found in large numbers in most deciduous woods beginning in april. They are getting quite fat at the base (bulb) now, and are currently peaking. You can pick 'em anywere you have permission from the landowner. I like them best fried in a little olive oil/ butter then seasoned with s&p They are also excellent cooked this way & added to mashed potatoes or blitzed & made into a flavored butter for meats.

                    2. I was just salivating about ramps this week - I tried them for the first time last year and they are delicious. I actually purchased them at the Guelph Farmers Market and am going there this weekend hoping they will have them again. I will let you know if they do.

                      1. They can still be found at The Big Carrot - $2.79 for a small bunch; they're looking a bit yellow on the edges of the leaves, but the stalks were still firm and crisp.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: Full tummy

                          ...yeah..i'm awild leek harvester and some of them go to the carrot...the yellowing on the leaves occurs when the bulb matures and does not mean the product is not fresh...this weekend will be the last delivery with the leves on..the heat makes them yellow off quickly...on monday we madewild leek/basil and wild leek /parsley pestos to sell at riverdale organic market on tuesday...they are harvested on private woodlots and crown land with great attention to long term sustainability...

                          1. re: cetochtli

                            long term would be not picking, and not sending to the carrot.

                            1. re: jayt90

                              ...well in in quebec they were harvested to the point of endangerment,they had always been a quebecois staple...so a harvest ban was imposed which soon was picked up by the capital area...but most ontario leeks still go to quebec and they harvest sometimes with ATV's hauling small trailers....they use them mostly to make pickles.....however they can be harvested over the long term with out endangerment by not overharvesting because they are naturally so prolific..the rule of thumb i use is not to take more than 5% of a crop per year...i have harvested the same sites since the early 90's and if anything they are more abundant than when i first started to harvest.

                              1. re: cetochtli

                                I notice they come in clumps and singles. I assume the clumps are from bulbs that have divided and that the singles are from seed. Which should be picked to preserve a patch? Also, cetochtli, or anyone else, are the bulbs of any use once the leaves are done?

                                1. re: DockPotato

                                  ....the bulbs split and they also spread by seed...often you see little clumps of babies which most be seedlings and they are to small to harvest..i think the best way to preserve a patch is to wander thru the woods and take a little here and a little there ..they have been limited to a 50 bulb harvest since 1995 and no commmercial sales in quebec but there is a history there of centuries of over harvest...same goes for high population areas of appalacia namely tennesse where it is on a caution could become endangered list....but in ontario logging and indfference( it thrives in second growth forest) have resuted in an abundance.....so the challenge will be to preserve the bounty with an ongoing limited harvest...retailers buying wholesale from harvesters should be interested in the harvesting methods...oh by the way the bulb peaks in flavour and texture just as the leaves are yellowing off...when you see the flower it starts to get a little woody.

                                2. re: cetochtli

                                  How much longer will they be available for at the Carrot? I was away last week.

                              2. re: cetochtli

                                I got some of that pesto on Tuesday--it was amazing!

                                1. re: TwinklyTerrapin

                                  ..glad you liked it...i just happened to be in a health food store in perth and they had this really fresh leafy basil at a really good price which is rare this time of year...i made some thai basil wild leek pesto for next week hopefully....trying out a chimichurri with wild leek which is this argentine thing of chopped parsley,garlic,scallion,olive oil,lemon,alittle fresh oregano or thyme finely chopped..it's great with lotsa olive oil for dipping baugette.

                            2. I bought some today at the farmer's market in Withrow park. The market will be held every Saturday morning. Maybe they will be available next week also.
                              I made some pasta with a carbonara sauce, my wife liked it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: foodyDudey

                                They've hit the mainstream now. Pusateri's north, a bunch of about 15 for 4.99.

                              2. I used to know an "urban forager" who would find ramp (aka wild leek) in the city's ravine systems. He never disclosed the locations, because he knew this was illegal. Also collected fiddleheads (fernbrake) and morels, all of these coming in at roughly the same season.

                                A warning to would be foragers: False morels can make you very sick, as can fiddleheads once they start opening (and some people are sensitive to them even as just shoots). Also, these spring delicacies pop up in the same areas as poison ivy (as I found out during a trip to an area where foraging is legal.) Outside of the city, there's also deer ticks (which carry Lyme disease). Short story: unless you are an expert, or with one, don't harvest wild flora.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Ginsugirl

                                  You don't need to be an expert, but you do need to study up a bit. I will agree about the morels - mushrooms can be dangerous - but deer ticks? Fiddleheads? Please. Dress properly - tuck your pant cuffs into socks and wear long sleeves to avoid ticks. Learn what they look like and check yourself after an outing into the woods to make sure you haven't picked up any. As for fiddleheads - eat them while they're tightly furled. Definitely learn which ones are the proper fern to pick - there are different kinds and not all are edible. If you're sensitive to fiddleheads, you'll have some gastrointestinal discomfort but it's not fatal.

                                  Ramps are easy. They smell and taste like onions. If it doesn't smell and taste like an onion, it's not a ramp. But even so - if you find a patch, don't clear-cut it. Just take a few and leave the rest of the patch to regenerate. They're pretty slow to spread so really need to be modest with your picking.

                                  Final word: respect the plants, respect the environment and be a responsible forager.

                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                    Agreed. No-one should fear a little walk in the woods where there are no signs or paths.

                                    Re morels: Once you positively see a morel it is learned.

                                    A woodlot, pasture, river or stream where you can harvest is not usually a common: get permission or have a bad day. "Permission" is usually surprisingly easy to obtain and can result in new friendships.

                                    When foraging take 2 bags with you - a big one and a small one. Fill the small one with your finds and the bigger one with the litter and garbage that you will find.

                                    Take only what you need to eat fresh - never, never let anything go to waste.

                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                      Excellent points, Nyleve. And for those of you who would like to learn about mushroom foraging, you might consider contacting the Mycological Society of Toronto www.myctor.org

                                      1. re: Tatai

                                        Yes, I have considered joining. Have you gone on any of the walks?

                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                          Not yet, but I know someone who's been a member for years and it sounds fascinating.

                                  2. The best places to find edible mushrooms are areas that have been burnt by forest fires during the previous seasons (they've been doing this on purpose in Japan and parts of the US for ages). Apparently, the mix of charred wood and plenty of rain creates ideal conditions.

                                    1. Quite a few places to get ramps right now in Toronto - Nutritionista Healthfood store on Dundas & Dovercourt carries them & when she's out she can order them for you Cathy @ # 647-427-5081

                                      also the Dufferin grove market on thursday & ko fruit on Roncesvalles & Garden

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: luna181

                                        Ko had quite a few bunches today! Mmmm.

                                      2. Anywhere to get them in the east end? I bought several bunches at SLM and I ended up pickling them. they were outstanding and now I would like to pick some up but I am looking for a place down by the Beaches (because I work and live out in the east end) Am I out of luck?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Apple

                                          You might be able to find them at The Farmer's Daughter on Kingston Rd. http://www.fresheverything.ca/

                                          1. re: Apple

                                            You are close enough to the Rouge to look for wild bunches. In Quebec this is illegal, but we can still do it. Next weekend may be the last, but morels are coming on with the rains we are experiencing. Ramps are easy to find compared to morels.

                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              thanks Tatai - I will have to check it out...
                                              Thanks jayt90 - I never really fancied myself as a forager... but I could do it - I think. I was just reading the thread on morels..

                                          2. Check out Eric Velland's wild leek soup recipe in the the Star on May 6th. I pick up a whole bunch for $10/lb at Wychwood over the weekend and made the soup. If you make it, use the cream that the author says is optional. Excellent soup. Green and delish.

                                            http://www.thestar.com/living/article...

                                            1. brickworks farmer's market starts next weekend. and i remember wild leeks being there last year. i'd bet there'll be wild leek pesto too.

                                              1. Wild Leeks at the Riverdale Farmer's Market for $5 a half pound.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: DrewStar

                                                  Got to love the wild leeks and fiddleheads in Peterborough, ON. This will be the last week for the fiddleheads. Both species can be found in abundance in the wilderniess parks within the city limits. Close to my lhouse is a field of about 2 or 3 acres of fiddleheads. Always leave some for next year and the corms will regenerate. Just search the freshets. (The areas covered by water during the melt, alongside the streams.) The leeks need 20 years, I am told, to regenerate so yes, please, harvest for your own use, but have a care to preserve.

                                                2. summerhill market is selling them right now

                                                  -----
                                                  Summerhill Market
                                                  446 Summerhill Ave, Toronto, ON M4W, CA

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: flying101

                                                    I gave them up long ago. Got tired of self-exhonerating poachers stealing them from private property. They're not sustainable and won't last if the commercial market expands.

                                                    1. re: Kagemusha

                                                      It's illegal to pick them in Quebec. If they become scarce here, we'll see the same law.

                                                      1. re: jayt90

                                                        Somehow, I don't see Dalton banning the foraging of ramps anytime soon. I believe that Quebeckers have a much stronger gastronomic and culinary heritage than Ontarians, which allows such a law to make sense in la belle province. Here, the pickers will continue to run rampant (ha!) with their wild leek foraging and nothing will likely get in the way to stop them, unfortunately.

                                                  2. Bump.

                                                    They're here !

                                                    2014 looks to be a bumper crop it seems and no black flies (as of yet) is a huge bonus.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                      Yup! Today's pick:

                                                       
                                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                                        Ha Hahh !!

                                                        Well done.

                                                        Greens sauteed with butter EVOO S+P tonight. Roots / bulbs going into a Potato soup for tomorrow. I LOVE eating (and even over eating) things that are in season !! Let the games begin !

                                                        1. re: Nyleve

                                                          Hey, really nice! I'm trying to grow some on my land (forest), but takes sooooo long from seeds. How can I get my hands on some with roots still attached. I'm in Ottawa. If anyone knows, please let me know. That would fast-track my "forest-farming" by a few years. Thanks a bunch for any suggestions.

                                                          1. re: Lachapelle72

                                                            First of all, since they grow almost everywhere, have you really looked for them on your land ? Best time is late April. They are the first things up and their brilliant green is easy to spot in the completely dull grey/brown forest.

                                                            Secondly, I saw TONS of wild leeks at the Byward market a week or so ago. What astonished me was they all had the full bulb and were all the same size. I didn't ask why but that made no sense to me, since my wild harvest is anything but uniform. Don't know if those could be planted since I dont recall much root on them.

                                                            Lastly, I'm afraid seeding and waiting is likely the best way to propagate them. To paraphrase an excellent old saying "it's a wise man who plants wild leeks from whose bounty he will never eat".

                                                            1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                              haha. Thanks so much for your reply PoppiYYZ. Your "old saying" made me laugh... and sorta cry at the same time :) Yes, Byward Market often has some in May... but never with the roots on them. If you're smart, you cut off the bottom 1cm and replant... or leave in the ground, and it regrows. Great for sustainability.
                                                              And no, sadly, no wild leeks on my property currently (It's an experiment to plant them in Northeastern Ontario (think North Bay area). I have been researching all manner of this for some time. It should work. Right deciduous forest and shading, right soil PH, right time in my life, etc... and my parents "free land" :). Oh well... 5 years later then. Thanks again.

                                                            2. re: Lachapelle72

                                                              You might ask one of the vendors (someone who actually looks like they might have picked the leeks themselves) if they can bring you some with roots attached. They likely clean them and trim off the roots before selling so they don't start off all nice and tidy. As for the uniformity, they have obviously spent some time sorting them before sale. The definitely don't come all uniform straight from the ground.

                                                              1. re: Nyleve

                                                                Thanks Nyleve. Funny thing... I actually found a vendor today... after searching for so long. In Smith Falls near Ottawa: Oasis Organics. I've been corresponding with them today. If all goes well, I will pick up just before weekend and spend Saturday planting with a zillion mosquitoes. Hope they keep well for the drive up North. Really excited. Likely shaved a few years this way (as opposed to planting seeds).

                                                                1. re: Lachapelle72

                                                                  i was doing field work a few days ago in a ramp rich grove. but i'm not tellin' where i found them

                                                                  1. re: Lachapelle72

                                                                    Great but don't hold your breath waiting for the abundant harvest. I planted a few patches in my own woods about 5 years ago. They come up every year - spread slightly - but still not a pickable patch. I go elsewhere to pick for eating.

                                                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                                                      Really? Hummm, that's a consideration. In your opinion, what do you suppose explains that?
                                                                      - Soil (I've researched that 4.9-5.5 PH is optimum -so no "coniferous" areas that are typically too "acid")?
                                                                      - Shading (30%-50% seems optimal)?
                                                                      - Drainage (they need moist soil at all times, but will not grow in perpetually wet sogginess.

                                                                      I'll take any and all pointers into consideration as this is an experiment for me... one that will involve much work (imagine the mosquitoes this weekend!!), challenging my "inner farmer" if you will.

                                                                      1. re: Lachapelle72

                                                                        I think they're just a very slow growing plant. They spread underground to some extent and also by self-seeding. But it's a long process - think ten to twenty years rather than a couple. This is precisely why it's so destructive to over-pick an area where ramps are growing. Once they're gone, they can take generations to return. If ever.

                                                            3. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                              Yup, I'm sure they are...under the snow.

                                                            4. Pickling, preserving, eating raw....how many things I love to do with Ramps, let me count the ways.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: Sadistick

                                                                Pa-lease tell me how to pickle them !

                                                                Are they fermented kimchi style (could be very good...), a vinegar pickle, some other wonderful creation ?

                                                                They are still small and oh so tender right now, so I would love to be able to save some to enjoy later.

                                                                1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                  Pleasure....

                                                                  We are still in fact finishing the last jar from last season's crop, of pickled bulbs - we typically preserve the leaves by blending raw in olive oil and freezing.

                                                                  For pickling, the 'world is your oyster' - my preference is to clean the ramps, and create your pickling liquid, typically a base of good quality white wine vinegar, some water (I like it tangy, so a 3:1 or so vinegar to water ratio), with some salt, a bit of sugar for balance, variations include: Chili peppers, mustard seeds, coriander seed - I typically will heat the liquid to extract flavour from spices, and then put in the ramps, seal, and store. Ultimately my favourite is a simple pickle with minimal additions as I just want to taste the ramps!

                                                                  As an aside, I have also preserved by making Ramp 'jam', pestos, etc.

                                                                  1. re: Sadistick

                                                                    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-g...

                                                                    Here's my go-to. I've made it the last couple of years. Still have some left over; delicious.

                                                                    1. re: Wino In Training

                                                                      For me, too much other flavours impacting the ramp profile in that recipe.

                                                                      Also I prefer more tang, but that is personal preference.

                                                                      That article reminds me though, ramps love water....I moved to a new house that backs onto a ravine with a river a few years ago, I should really explore a bit more in depth....

                                                                      1. re: Sadistick

                                                                        Fair enough - especially early - but it does eventually come together. Actually I made it last year with late-season ramps, large bulbs. They held up their rampiness really well.

                                                                        1. re: Wino In Training

                                                                          Thanks for the recipes and suggestions. I have done a bit of research and found this recipe for a "fresh" pickle :

                                                                          http://www.chow.com/recipes/10490-pic...

                                                                          I think I'll try preserving some in 250mL jars to try a couple of different recipes. Can't stop thinking about a kimchi style too.

                                                                          Miserable weather but I'm going out collecting today. May even run into a fresh organic wild turkey along the way...

                                                              2. Thanks to sadistik and others for the pickling recipes. Ramps are great and plentiful in Peterborough right now. Picked some last week in a public park behind my house. They are all over the place. Tonight I am making spaghetti sauce with last year's home grown tomatoes and this year's ramps instead of garlic. Will let you know how it works out.

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: bruised

                                                                  Pleasure - hope you enjoyed.

                                                                  Ramps are a beautiful thing, I made friends with a Korean couple picking wild celery near my house and invited them to pick some from my backyard as it is an absolute weed! Long story short, it turns out he was picking ramps that morning after I showed him a few we had, he went to his car and shared a good pound or so with me, at which point I gave him some of my ramp olive oil, later on that day he shows up with some home made kimchi (which we had discussed as well).

                                                                  Too bad society has moved away from this type of social bartering/interaction as a source of budding friendships.

                                                                  1. re: bruised

                                                                    If you have some left, do try making the fresh pickled ramps. One of THE most flavorful things I have ever eaten. If you are hard-of-tasting, this is for you.

                                                                    http://www.chow.com/recipes/10490-pic...

                                                                    Since I didn't have Japanese Seven Spice, I recreated as best as I could with what I had : blk pepper, lemon peel, red pepper flakes, sesame and poppy seeds. Marinate overnight tossing occasionally. Crisp, sweet, sour, spicy, garlic/oniony. Like a big band playing in your mouth !

                                                                    BTW, I did later find Japanese seven spice at the Mihn's Grocery 430 George Str. Peterborough.

                                                                    1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                      PS Got a small batch of Ramp Kimchi in the fridge. Should be ready to taste in the next couple of days...

                                                                      1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                        I would love to trade you a great intown ramp and fiddlehead location for a small taste of your Ramp Kimchi.
                                                                        The location is in the wilderness park behind the University Heights subdivision. Access is by foot only through the kids play-park in the back of the subdivision or along the creek through Woodland Acres. My name is Bruce Stewart, I own the store called Package Plus next door to the Souvlaki Pit on Rink St.

                                                                        1. re: bruised

                                                                          Won't be great much longer.

                                                                          1. re: bruised

                                                                            No problem, I'll try it first though.

                                                                            Probably shouldn't give out your harvest hot spots. CSIS/NSA/Foragers are listening !

                                                                    2. PAT on Lawrence