Wild leeks, aka ramps – Foraging for local food is always in season

Wild Leeks, (Allium tricoccum) also known locally as ramps, grow wild and fairly abundantly here in our Eastern Ontario woods. It’s a spring delicacy to look forward to each spring, easily harvested before the blackflies arrive, and prized for their culinary value because they’re versatile to cook with, and so very tasty!

Foraging food from the woods is a joy everyone should experience and leeks never disappoint! There are dozens of ways to cook and eat them.  From omelettes to pesto, soups, sandwiches, salads, or even pickled, and that’s just for a start, foodies are coming up with new ways to enjoy leeks all the time.

With that in mind, and after perusing through some food photos on Pinterest, I was intrigued by Hassleback potatoes enough to make them. Thought they’d be the perfect candidate for my leeks harvest, too.

I washed the harvest, chopped them up, squeezed some lemon juice on them and voila.. (see photo!). I stuffed the potatoes, which look like edible accordions, along with the baked chicken thighs, which were also stuffed with mushrooms, goat cheese and the rest of the ramps. Delicious!

If you don’t have access to leeks where you are, I am offering several tasty culinary goodies from my harvest at the store. We’ll have our own hand made, locally sourced and locally created herbal Vinegars and condiments available again this spring, while supplies last,  which offer a taste of these delightful plants.

With regards to the leek pesto I created, silly me forgot to take a photo. In any case, here’s an easy recipe (below) that anyone can do.  It is lovely drizzled all over fresh pasta or spread on some crusty baked bread. Nice as a dip or on salad, too!

The directions are similar to a basil pesto, but with a substitution of leeks. One could experiment and add both!

Ingredients:

  • Dozen leek leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts (roasted)
  • (optional) 1/2 cup of fresh parsley

Combine in blender and mix to a smooth paste. Enjoy!

Happy foraging, but please note: Don’t take more than necessary from the wild. Take a few, but leave most behind. – Thank you!

Borage – Borago officinalis – A true blue addition to any garden

Borage flowers offer anyone with a discerning eye for colour, a lovely shade of true blue in their garden. But don’t judge it by the star-shaped flowers alone. This herb is not only beautiful, but really useful as well. Seriously, I’ve always felt this plant was underrated in contemporary gardens, unlike the past where its qualities were highly valued.

I can’t help admiring them as one would any living species with such historical pedigree. As an heirloom, cultivated since at least the 1440s, the folklore they encompass states just how much borage was valued as it was said to bring courage to one’s heart. “Borage for courage” as the saying goes…

To further that, the ancient Celtic people believed borage offered courage in the face of enemies on the battle field. How extraordinary! But back to our modern times, its quality as a companion plant for repelling hornworms on tomatoes has offered it a serious, if not fashionable comeback.

Borage is considered an annual herb where I live, but does self seed easily and visibly appreciates the extra warmth offered by the raised beds in our yard, where I might add they have settled in quite happily!

The dainty flowers are edible, described with a slight cucumber-like flavour. Use them in soups, salads and sandwiches, or as a substitute for spinach stuffed into traditional pastas, or just as a pretty garnish. A friend of mine uses them to flavour her pickles and another makes teas and assorted iced drinks with them.

Thankfully Borage is not a fussy plant and grows well in most soils. Like most plants however, it will thrive more abundantly if offered amended earth. I’m also happy to report that the deer avoid Borage like the plague, likely due to its fuzzy leaves, which is a plus in many a gardener’s mind!

Borage seeds are easily harvested if you like to share seeds, which I always recommend. Otherwise, leave them to self sow like I do, and every year you can look forward to these lovelies gracing the garden once again. Those showy little blue star-shaped flowers attract bees, butterflies, and all sorts of good pollinators. They’re a wonderful addition to anyone’s garden!

Note:

  1. When planting Borage seeds, the best time to do this is in spring, after any remaining chance of frost. Soak the seeds first in wet paper towel overnight, and then sow them directly into the garden, but not too deep, as half an inch will suffice. Borage will grow to a height of 2- 3 feet.
  2. The oil from Borage seeds is highly valued and plants are now commercially cultivated for skin care products and other items. It’s one of my favourite go-to ingredients for use in my own products.
  3. If you see some of your flowers are pink, then there is likely a deficiency in your soil. Below is a photo I took a couple of years ago. This is common, I’ve since discovered, when Borage is growing in dry, gravelly soil. To fix this, simply add some triple-mix or compost. However, the pink is actually quite pretty, and Borage may even offer white flowers from time to time.

Perhaps it’s just evolutionary and not the soil?! In any case, Happy Gardening!