Wild about wild leeks

"Field" of wild leeks in the forest

This blog has been written before.  Honest.  Read my blogs from the 2009 leek foraging season:  http://centria.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/triple-header-hummingbirds-wild-leeks-and-garden/ and http://centria.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/the-recipe-for-wild-leek-soup/.

It will probably be written again.

But let’s repeat ourselves:  We love wild leek soup.  And we hope you do, too.

Impenetrable swamp

This year’s wild leek adventure happened Wednesday after a morning at work.  I changed my shoes and drove to the Secret Spot.  Yes, the wild leek spot is secret…just like the morel mushroom spot.  Do not ask.  You can try to figure it out, but you probably won’t.  Unless you follow me from work every day in May.  Even then–if I notice a car following me–you won’t find it.  That’s the way it is in the Northwoods.

Unfortunately, Memory is not one of my strong traits.  Last year (and the year before) after fighting my way through thick swamplands I vowed:  do not go in the swamp next year.  There is an easier way.  Go down the road a little and then venture in toward the leek-fields.

Unfortunately, I did not recall this good inner advice.  Headed right into the thickets of the swamp.

Want some swamp-walking advice?  Next time you find yourself walking in a swamp with branches pelting your face and poking you in the eye, you’re going to want to run screaming through the impenetrable brush.  Wrong move.  Take it from an experienced swamp-walker.

Instead you want to sloooowwwww down.  Go slow.  Creep.  Go slower than you want.  Breathe deeply.  The slowness then allows you to navigate through the thickets like you’re in a slow-motion dance.  You start to appreciate the hike.  Well, sort of.  You at least make your way through without ripped clothing and muddy soaked shoes.  Please remember.  Next time you’re tempted to run screaming through a swamp, trying to get out–slow down.  Real slow.

Digging up the pungent beauties

Wild leeks only grow in certain places.  We haven’t found a wild leek on our property yet.  (Although we’re tempted to plant some of these beauties and grow our own patch.) 

After the swamp adventure I eventually saw Light and then tried to remember whether to turn left or right to reach the field.  Best bet:  left.  Luckily Memory served in this instance!  After about ten minutes of searching, the bright green wave of wild leek banners met the eye.

Newly picked wild leeks atop grocery bag

The cultivator then digs ’em up.  There is an art to this, as well.  At first I dug them impatiently.  Shame, shame.  A better way exists.  I don’t know how to share it with you without sounding foolish.  But here goes.  You almost have to talk to the wild leeks.  You ask them permission to lift their underground roots and eat them in soup. 

I swear by all the Wild Leek gods that the leeks–which in the beginning proved impossible to dig without grunting and frowning–suddenly began to glide effortlessly from the soil. 

Since this cannot be proven you must dig your own leeks and ascertain the advisability of talking to leeks first.  See about the level of cultivation cooperation.  Then report back here.  Please come and back me up. 

Newly washed in sink...ready for soup!

Now we’ve fast-forwarded to this year’s recipe.  We liked it better than last year’s recipe.  Please get your pen and write it down:

Wild Leek Soup with Potatoes, Carrots, Rosemary & Cilantro (thanks to my friend Victoria over there in Portugal for the inspiration!)

1 cup of wild leeks (include whites, the red part and a little bit of the green)

saute the leeks in 1 T. olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Add 1 quart rich vegetable broth.  (I always cook celery stalks, carrots, onion and other mild vegetables and whir them together in the blender.  Freeze or use immediately.)

1 1/2 cups diced potatoes

1/2 cup minced carrot

1 t. rosemary.  Use fingers to break up the teeny sticks. 

Bring to a boil, then simmer melodically while you prepare a salad and heat up some bread.  Simmer for maybe 15 minutes, until carrot and potato are nicely done.

Add 3/4 cup milk (soymilk if you happen to be us) mixed with 1 t. cornstarch or arrowroot.  Lavishly toss in 1/4 cup of cilantro and maybe 1 t. salt and some pepper.

Eat.  Eat astounded.  Eat in deep appreciation.  Thank the wild leeks.  Abundantly.

P.S.  If you are not yet tired of reading about the inestimable qualities of wild leeks please click here.  You can read what I wrote yesterday when still dazed and in the spell of wild leeks.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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29 Responses to Wild about wild leeks

  1. Kathy – the only possible way to make your blogs any better (and if anyone can figure this out, you can), is to serve your soup to us through our speakers. I can SMELL it — I swear I can! But that only makes me want more. I want to TASTE it. A lot of it.

    Now you KNOW as well as I do that soup ((any food, actually) always tastes better when someone ELSE makes it. Hence, I’m putting in my request here and now. Recipes are all very well and good. And very much appreciated. But I would like to TASTE it first, please.

    Laurie Buchanan

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, you couldn’t say nicer comments. You make me want to send soup in the mail. You really do. However, I am suspicious about the soup making it safely there…without e-coli contamination. How ’bout you come visit?

      • Kathy – My bucket list includes plans to visit Sandi (Georgia), Terrill (Mayne Island), Barbara (Maryland), Ted (New Zealand), Kevin (Scotland), Jeff (New Jersey), you in the up, UP, UPPER (!) Peninsula — camera in hand — and many, many more! I’ll have my delicious bowl of Wild Leek Soup then.

        • Kathy says:

          Well then, Laurie, we have a deal! But you must come in May. Please. And then the wild leeks shall whisper their secrets to you…

  2. Sue says:


  3. Snoopykg1 says:

    Leek Heaven…..I have never actuallu had them, at least I don’t think…..But your recipe smells so good, especailly the vegatable broth!


    • Kathy says:

      Kim, the vegetable broth makes it. Of course, that’s because we’re mostly vegetarian. I suppose people could add chicken broth. But vegetable broth is Condensed Heaven. Thus…my recommendation for vegetable broth!

  4. Dawn says:

    Well, we have wild onions, where the bulb part looks a lot like your wild leeks…but the tops look like chives rather than the leaves you have. Wonder if I could do the same thing with those? They DO smell really good when I move over them…

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, I’m sure you could substitute wild onions. Let me know how the recipe tastes! Maybe you’ll have all the taste…without the wild crazy pungent smell.

  5. kathusitalo says:

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. Now to find wild leeks.

  6. Kathy, I don’t think I have ever seen these to know what they are. How amazing! I was just reading that if they don’t smell like onions then they are not wild leeks… I wonder – it appears they may grow in BC but may be called “Ramps” http://www.granvilleonline.ca/gr/blogs/food/2010/05/11/season039s-eatings-seasonal-foods-spring Might require a trip through the bottom lands on a scouting mission.

    • Kathy says:

      Yep. Those ramps are definely wild leeks. I also know this fact from Carla (from Gaia.) She lives in Maine and they call them ramps there, as well. Let me know if you find them growing around your house. I am fascinated by this whole subject. As well as the soup.

  7. Cindy Lou says:

    I remember last year’s post fondly….I had showed it to Ricky and he was off to find his own leeks! Today, I shall have to tell him they’re up again though he probably already knows it as he’s been hiking/fishing all over for his beloved trout. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, you may be the only person commenting who was around for last year’s post. Do send Ricky out and about for leeks. Then add them generously to EVERYTHING you cook for the next week.

  8. P.j. grath says:

    Thank you for the recipe, which is making my mouth water. I can’t help laughing, though–don’t hate me!–at the idea of a “secret” spot for wild leeks. Someone yesterday told me about one he knew, as if it were a morel spot. Maybe our township is leekier than the rest of Michigan, but at this time of year I see almost nothing else (oh, trillium, yes) in the woods as I drove from home to town. Getting into the woods on foot, of course, is a different matter. More is revealed. But maybe I’ll have to go out now and collect leeks and make soup, and it’s all your fault.

    • Kathy says:

      Pamela…I am thrilled to hear you have magnificent wild leek spots. You are luckier than lucky. I hope you collect some. I hope you like them. I hope you write a blog about them. 🙂

  9. Karla says:

    Hm, those leaves look really really really familiar. Thanks. You have inspired me to pack my trowel, head up onto the back hillside and do some investigating! Hopefully I strike it rich.

    • Kathy says:

      Kim, if you strike it rich, let us know! Good luck with your trowel… I am sure the wild leeks will whisper their secret locations in your ears.

  10. crd says:

    Your leeks look delicious but your swamp not quite impenetrable. At least not compared to the chaparral I’ve been crawling through in Cali.

    • Kathy says:

      Chris, as we spoke on the phone earlier…I think your California chaparral is thicker than the thickets in Upper Michigan. You win. Mine weren’t impenetrable. They were challenging. But not impenetrable. 🙂

  11. I’m all ears. And I may just have a word, or two, for them as well …

  12. Colleen Lloyd says:

    Hi Kathy, you might have to consider a cookbook (or blog) next. When people’s mouths start to water and we start secretly dreaming of ways to share space at your dinner table…well, that says a lot!! Yummy is fast becoming one of my favorite words in response to your posts.
    We have wild leeks on Vancouver Island and they’re sometimes available in the spring at Farmers Markets in small bunches…if you’re early and lucky. I think that it’s no longer legal to pick them in some parts of Eastern Canada but as far as I know it’s still OK in B.C. Not sure if they grow anywhere here in California.

    • Kathy says:

      Colleen, I once wrote a natural foods cookbook! It ended up in the same place my other two books ended up. On the shelf. I am a bit challenged about writing books–they never sound very good to me when they’re finished. Hope perhaps someday to remedy that…

      You can’t pick leeks now in Eastern Canada? Are they endangered? Never heard that before!

      Hope you enjoy your weekend…

  13. truels says:

    Well, I’m wild about wild leeks too, they grow many places around here in Eastern Jylland in Denmark. There are lots of them, so they are easy to find (and smell!!) I did not know they were in other part of the world. The story here is, that they were brought up here from south and eastern Europe by immigrants. They have been regarded as weeds for many years, but now I think more and more people pick them and use them for cooking. Like I do: I use the fresh, young leaves in many dishes, salad, pesto and … – I have not made a soup like yours yet (using the whole plant), so that must be the next dish here 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Truels, I think many people here regard them like weeds, too. Only some of us are catching on and using them for cooking! (I only really discovered them a few years ago…) Never knew you could use the fresh young leaves without cooking. Thanks for that tip!! Glad to hear we have the same plants here in Michigan as Denmark…

  14. Konnie LeMay says:

    Hello Kathy!
    Fun blog. We’re doing a story about wild leeks around Lake Superior. Could you shoot me an email or call me?

    Lake Superior Magazine

  15. Pingback: Unexpected « Lake Superior Spirit

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