Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wild Food

The same day the peepers began their chorus, the leeks began to appear. It was March 28th and the next day it snowed.
I walked through the woods on April 3rd and was surprised to see how fast they had grown. The trout lily was also up adding some more green, along with moss and the Christmas ferns.
It is extremely difficult to grow the native wild leek in a domesticated vegetable garden because of the unique growing conditions they require. They are a good tasting “wild” food.
Leeks, or as some call them ramps, are a perennial woodland herb, native to much of the eastern sections of North America. The time frame for digging this first crop of the wild “recession” garden is short. Once the woods canopy shades the ground, usually mid to late May, the leeks bloom, and then die back. The distinctive, white flowers (photograph) produce black seeds which are then scattered for future crops.
It pays to be careful when harvesting them, don't take them all and be sure to bring along a shovel; they can be tricky to get out of the soil. Both the white bulb, which looks like a scallion, and the leaves are edible.
There are numerous healthy recipes; the bulbs can be pickled, dried or frozen for future use. Because they have a pungent garlic-onion flavor, pay attention to how many are used in a recipe. Leeks are high in Vitamins A and C and contain some minerals which are beneficial.
While there is a lot of discussions about “recession” gardens this year, there are edible plants which can be harvested in the woods. Spring is a great time to collect some of these foods and to get re-acquainted with our many natural resources. Within weeks the woods will be alive with hundreds of unique and colorful native plants. It pays to be watchful, know what you are harvesting and don't take it all.

For more gardening news and information visit Kathleen Richardson
or Dan at Urban Veggies
or other writing I have done.

Thanks for stopping by.

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