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Apr 18, 2007 11:36 PM

Ontario Wild Leeks (aka Ramps)

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.

        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!