Wild Northerner Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 16

I always get a little anxious this time of year for something green. Winter is great, but it’s truly a blanket of white. Slowly, but surely, the white recedes and the first hues of spring start poking through.

As welcome as spring is, it can be a bit sparse as far as local food goes. Usually, by the time the snow melts, the freezer, pantry, and backyard are bare. I can get pretty crafty with canned goods, but I absolutely love it when local produce starts trickling back on to grocery store shelves.

One way to stretch out your harvest season is to forage in the forest for early, edible plants. I’m sure you know someone that can tell the difference between a good mushroom, and one that can send you to the emergency room. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. And I don’t really like mushrooms enough to tempt my luck.

Aside from fungi, and the obvious berries, there are other things growing around us that can make a spring meal happen. One of my favourites, and a little lesser known, are leeks. I absolutely adore leeks. They’re the perfect marriage of onions and garlic, and smell like heaven fried in butter. Some people would be surprised to learn that there is a variety of leek that grows wild, right here in our wild north.

I had never eaten wild leek until university. One of my roommates had a patch on the farm that she lived on. Each spring, her parents would have to confront eager, but trespassing harvesters, and encourage them to move along with a few bunches for their efforts. A small sample always made it back to school with her, and we’d experiment adding them to different recipes.

If you’re lucky enough to come across a patch of wild leeks, only harvest a few from each group. This will ensure that the plants grow again next year. And always make sure you seek landowner’s permission before embarking on a hearty pick. If you’re not into the adventure of telling edible plants apart from potentially toxic greenery, you can find delicious, conventional, Ontario grown leeks at the grocery store starting in late winter, and then early summer at some local farmer’s markets. You can use leeks a thousand different ways, but there’s nothing quite as comforting as a truly simple leek and potato soup.

Sprung a Leek

Northern Kitchen

BY LEIGHA BENFORD

For Wild Northerner

Sprung a leek