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Spring 2013 Wild Leek Watch - post sightings here!

I haven't seen any yet - seems too early given how cool it is but will go to SLM this weekend and report.

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  1. Still snow in the woods around here (near Peterborough). But as soon as it warms up at all, they'll start to pop. Such a weird spring we're having.

    1. It's too bad few seem to know that ramps aren't sustainable. Odds are good that foraged(i.e., stolen)ramps at SLM and elsewhere are boosted off public and private land,often with considerable collateral damage to sensitive woodland areas.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Kagemusha

        That is true. I pick at the back of a friend's land and am very careful to only take a clump here and there in an area that is carpeted with leeks. They grow interspersed with trilliums, which also suffer from the disruption of their ecosystem. I have planted some on my own property and I can see how s-l-o-w-l-y they seem to spread. So I always pick with that in mind. But I'm sure that commercial pickers are not quite as sensitive. Sad thing is that the rage for local/wild/organic foods has created a booming market for this plant which, as you say, is not sustainable.

        1. re: Kagemusha

          Could you give more information please - I've been buying them at SLM for over 30 years....didn't know there might be issues with their sustainability....could you elaborate. Thanks.

          1. re: ElizabethS

            Well the thing about wild leeks is that every single leek is the entire plant. There is nothing left in the ground to grow back - it's just gone, like a radish pulled from the garden. But unlike radishes, they're slow growing and take eons for a patch to spread back so that the holes are filled. Many pickers just show up in someone's woods, without permission I might add, and begin to dig up every single leek. The equivalent of clear-cutting a forest. I mean, why not? It's not your property and you're getting paid by the pound when you deliver the goods. And next year you just dig up another place. I don't know what to suggest if you're buying them - unless the leeks have come from the vendor's own property (doubtful) they have been foraged by pickers with dubious ethics. Sorry for the bad news but it's the truth.

            1. re: Nyleve

              Thank you for your informative answer to my question. I have always bought them at Marvin's Gardens - I'll ask.

            2. re: ElizabethS

              "Could you give more information please - I've been buying them at SLM for over 30 years....didn't know there might be issues with their sustainability....could you elaborate. Thanks."

              Imagine seeing trilliums in the cut flower buckets at Loblaws. Then visualize piles of ramps at SLM. What's wrong in these pictures?

              1. re: Kagemusha

                The ramps should be in buckets not piles?

                1. re: Kagemusha

                  Trilliums wilt very quickly if picked, you wouldn't be able to sell them like cut flowers. Just sayin'.

            3. Leeks are completely sustainable.Things that are not sustainable are things like oil, which cannot be replaced. All food is sustainable, but harvesting technique and demand has to be managed.

              Leek seeds take about 5 years to germinate and require a specific combination of soil/temperature and water in order to take. They will wait for these conditions, so the actual germination is close to 10 years.

              When harvesting, never, ever, take a full clump.

              Hard core leek conservationists will cut about 20% of the green tops off any given clump and never touch the roots

              If you are determined to take the root portion, dig a hole in the soil on one side of the clump and tip the single plants..one at a time.. into the hole. You will hear each plant snap free of the main clump. Carefully replace the soil. Again, take about 20% of the clump or 2-3 roots per clump.

              If you want to propagate the plant, use this technique to split off half the clump. Split that half into 2 pieces (5-10 plants per clump) and carefully plant the 2 pieces in a shaded maple/hardwood forest with good soil..

              Harvesting off public land isn't "boosting" if the law allows for it. It is legal for individual consumption to harvest off some properties and as a commercial enterprise in other cases.
              As an example, the fiddleheads sold in Loblaws may have been harvested off public lands in Ontario.
              Most provincial/municipal parks and regional conservation authorities do not allow harvesting of any plans (even berries), but it is permitted (with parameters) on federal Crown land.
              Check the laws of the land before harvesting. Get written permission from the owners if it is private. The OFAH has a form online for hunters that you can modify for foraging.
              And think twice about foraging near roads, powerlines, railways and in lowlands. All are candidates for chemical and animal contamination.

              As a side note, trilliums are edible. The common white trillium is easy to grow and contrary to the urban legend, not illegal to harvest in Ontario. There is one species that is protected as it is rare.

              Know the law, know the plant and teach others how to care.

              7 Replies
              1. re: whitbycoupon

                And then you woke up, whitbycoupon. Do you actually think anyone making a buck anywhere in the ramp supply chain would pay any attention to any of this? Your definition of 'sustainable" makes my point.

                Friends got several foraging crews charged and fined for trespass on private land. The AWD truck and ATV damage to their property was considerable.

                1. re: whitbycoupon

                  As Kagemusha said, aren't going to give a rat's patootie about regulations. So, yes, you're right wild leeks are sustainable if harvested properly, but who's watching the pickers out in the back 40 as they dig up the whole patch? I have heard horror stories.

                  On the other hand - really? Trilliums are edible? Which part? I had no idea.

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    This is actually a wonderful time of year to get many fresh wild greens.
                    Leeks take a lot of work and are very strongly flavoured. At this time of year, I prefer things that are quick and easy.

                    If you want to try Trilliums, go for the young leaves, before the plant flowers. Trilliums are like dandelions in that respect...most of the bitterness forms as the plant flowers.

                    Other spring goodies that can be harvested in the next few weeks are asparagus, dandelions, nettles, plantain, wood violet and cat-tail.
                    Wood violet and dandelion flowers make a wonderful jelly. Young dandelion flowers, harvested in the rosette before they open, taste like corn. Cattail shoots can be prepared like asparagus.
                    If harvesting fiddleheads, be certain that the plant is Ostrich fern and not Bracken Fern..the latter is believed to be carcinogenic. Harvest in areas that are not a part of a downstream flood plain from a cattle operation and leave at least 2 of the curls so the plant can thrive..
                    Nettles regrow quickly, so you can cut them back over and over and still have more come. Don't harvest leaves from a plant that has flowered. Asparagus can usually be taken twice from a healthy plant.

                    Know the law, know the plant and teach others how to care.

                    1. re: whitbycoupon

                      That's amazing. I never knew you could eat trillum leaves. I've made a wonderful pasta with nettles and fiddleheads are a spring ritual around here. I've also had young dandelion flowers, battered and fried - they're actually pretty delicious! Really looking forward to morels too, but this is such a cold spring so far that it will be a while...

                      1. re: Nyleve

                        I hate to say it, but anything deep-fried is wonderful in my books. I think nettles are my favorite because they are so easy..They grow in one place and you can easily get enough for several feeds....I make/freeze spanakopita with them or dry for winter tea. Most of my dandelion flowers are reserved for syrup or candy..not my favourite activity though..it takes a lot of flowers and a lot of work..
                        Did you use the nettles in the pasta itself or as a sauce on them?

                        1. re: whitbycoupon

                          I did the nettles the way I do pasta with rapini - sautéed in olive oil, with garlic, chilies, etc., and tossed with cooked pasta. I have seen a lot of recipes for nettles in the pasta dough itself, but it seems to me that the flavour of the nettles would be completely with that use. We have a large patch of nettles behind our chicken coop - a fact that dismays my husband every time he goes to cut down the weeds back there.

                          And wow they would be fantastic in spanakopita!

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            I have never used chillies with them, so something new to try. There is a BC restaurant that used them that way as a green with risotto and salmon..It looked wonderful...
                            The kids prefer nettles to spinach in spanakopita. We did a side-by-side taste test, all other ingredients the same..The nettle ones never made it to the freezer...Given that the kids were 14 at the time, it was a pretty telling experiment.
                            Mine are on the edge of a corn/soy field. I have used the bushhog to swing by a couple times of year. When the darn things flower, the leaves build up with an oxalate..hard on the kidneys, so they get knocked down and start over.
                            I have also used them in a "spinach" dip (OMG....yummy), cream soup and on pizza.
                            I also saute and blanche them, put them in an old margarine containers and freeze them for the winter.
                            I know one family that grow them against the house under windows...a native plant security system..clever idea, really.

                2. I am lucky to have been carefully harvesting a wide vast hillsi and also call them back de for decades, only another person in a nearby town also knew about them The vast property was again decades used in the summer for a special use and developers in the long run have plans for developments unfortunately. I just phone them to let them know I will be on the propertytover many different days and call once more to tell them I am no longer to be on the property for that season. They are so kind to allow my entry, but truth is in the end, there will be a very huge subdision built and the huge area will not survive!

                  1. Folks, we know some people feel quite passionate about the issue of over-harvesting Wild Leeks, but we also don't want to see every thread about them become a debate about sustainability issues. It's been raised now, so people who are concerned about it can seek out more information and make their own decisions.

                    Please let that aspect of the conversation go now.

                    Thanks.

                    1. Do any of the Durham region markets get ramps?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jo_jo_ba

                        Not sure about Durham region, but you can find them at the Peterborough farmers market. And what I know about them is that most of the vendors are the farmers, so they've picked off their own land.

                        1. re: Nyleve

                          I have not seen them here, but I would be sad if I did. There is very little land in this area of the right type to sustain them for individual use, let alone commercial.
                          I have a land-owner's permission to harvest for personal use outside of Cobourg..
                          I also have a couple of places on crown land near Bobcaygeon that I may harvest if I am up in the neighbourhood.

                        2. re: jo_jo_ba

                          I am just one concession over from Durham, in the western Kawartha Lakes. I have wild leeks growing in my patch of forest here. So they are in the area. I don't do any Durham region markets though...

                          But the point I'm trying to make, is they are around.

                        3. I checked my patch yesterday and they are starting to emerge. All we need is a couple of warmish days and they'll be ready to go.

                          1. They are up. I dug about a dozen or so this morning. Near Peterborough. Still tightly furled, so in a warmer spot maybe more "mature". But never mind - these will do for now!

                            1. Growing up in the Niagara Region I have a lot of fond memories hunting for wild leeks with my Grandpa Tony and my brother when we were kids.if I remember correctly they should be out now

                              1. What are your favorite ways to preserve ramps?

                                Pickled? In oil? Processed (preferably post roasting over fire)?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Sadistick

                                  I worry about preserving in oil.
                                  Me? I pack in a jar, bring a 50/50 vinegar/water mix to a boil, top up the jar and close (for decoration, I insert a ramp leaf along the side).
                                  It isn't true canning, so I put it into the fridge and start eating about a week later.