Spring Foraging for Wild Leeks

Close-up of the leafy bounty after foraging for wild leeks.

New beginnings and the uniqueness of Ontario forests reveal themselves each spring. It’s a great time to forage for wild leeks!

The earth and sun have fed us antioxidants through the maple trees’ sap. And in early spring, the wet, mulchy ground of the maple forest reveals wild leeks peeking through.

When you’re foraging for wild leeks, look for the fairy ring of green. The “fairy ring”—so called because we find the art of wild food foraging magical—is unmistakable once you know what to look for. Actually a beautiful circular star/sunburst shape, it has a sweet, heady, garlic aroma when brushed with your hiking boot. Wild leeks are found around eastern Canada and the eastern United States.

Close-up of the circular star/sunburst shape of a wild leek “fairy ring.”

Fun fact: This plant, called shikaakwa (chicagou) by native tribes near Lake Michigan, is the namesake of Chicago! Also called ramp, wood leek, wild garlic, spring onion and ramson, wild leek is an onion-like plant in the allium family.

Wild leeks have a distinctively delicate and sweet garlic-onion aroma and flavour. If you are lucky enough to find some, remove only a couple of individual wild leeks from each growing clump to ensure the long-term propagation of your stash. Gently rinse and prepare wild leeks just a few hours before eating. Cook them lightly as a substitute for any leek, garlic, onion or shallot dish.

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