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Gathering Wild Leeks (Ramps)

growth habit of wild leeks wild leek growth habit (photo by jhy)

Wild leeks, Allium tricoccum, also known as ramps, appear early in the spring in April or May, about the same time of year as the hepatica and spring beauty bloom. You will find patches of them in the woods. They grow like this.

They don't have many look-alikes. Clintonia (bluebead) leaves are similar, but the tips of the Clintonia leaves are rounder. Leeks have purplish stems. And the clincher is, that if you break and crush a stem, it will smell like onion.

wild leeks wild leeks (photo by jhy)

You will need to dig up the plants. Usually, they will just break off if you try to pull them up, and you definitely want the bulbs. Once you have determined how deep you need to dig, just bring up a handful and knock most of the dirt off until you can wash them. You can carry them home in a paper or plastic bag.

To clean: Once they are thoroughly rinsed, I cut off the root ball (leaving the bulb, of course), and then just slide the outermost "skin" down over the bulb to remove any remaining dirt or residue.

wild leeks ready to take home wild leeks ready to take home (photo by jhy)


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