Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wild Leeks: Spring Favorite

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A bright morning here on the mountain. Last night's temperature only dropped to 30 and already this morning we are at 52 degrees. Rain is predicted for the next three days so I have to get clicking. There is plenty to do, especially when the sun shines and a warm morning such as this one melts away arthritis pain.

Karl the Wonder Dog was sick all night, apparently the result of winter leftovers during private spring walks. Dogs have bad habits in spring and what smells good to them is not always good for their constitution. We always worry about Karl when he gets like this as there have been a couple bouts that came closer than we wanted to end-of-life than start-of-spring. I hope I have found the last place to clean up from last night but do think he's looking better. His trip outside was momentary this morning and back to bed he went. My walk was solo.

This week I have seen two bears, one out back of the house and one down the road a mile or so. Neither was a bruiser but both may have had companions I didn't see. Food is scarce for bears in spring and I have been told that they look for green vegetables such as wild leeks and false hellebores to purge their digestive system and gain some sustenance. I grow both of these plants in my lower hosta garden, more for critters than for us.

Wild leeks are some different than the farm bought, cultivated version pictured up top here. To me, there's nothing like a pot of potato-leek soup made with fresh chicken stock and farm fresh cream and for most, that is the way to go. Some collectors, perhaps those who still carry a copy of Euell Gibbons twenty year old Stalking the Wild Asparagus in their back pocket, prefer wild leeks.

Here in Marshfield, Vermont wild leeks are prevalent along the Winooski River, actually named Onion River by aboriginal Vermonters. Almost any walk along the banks of the river kicks off ones olfactory system as unnoticed crushed leaves quickly offer an intense onion smell and cause the "what did I step on?" alarm to go off. The riverbanks contain more than just wild leeks and a really good read about the river is In The Land Of the Wild Onion, by Dummerston, Vermont native, Charles Fish.

Wild leeks are easy to spot this time of year as they occupy matted colonies that are obvious standouts on the forest floor. Gail and friend Diana passed through Northfield Gulf last week and the colonies were obvious. I was at Shelburne Pond a week ago and not only around the pond but all along Pond and also Falls Roads I found giant patches.

Wild leeks are strong in aroma and flavor and even when they are sliced and dehydrated for later use, they retain such strength. They don't get a lot bigger than what you see pictured here but they colonize so well that digging them is easy.

The roots are quite shallow and the plants do best where the rich woods soil retains moisture. By August the tops are gone and the seed scapes are all that remain above ground. Tiny black seeds drop to the ground over winter and expand the colony.

If you're out and about, use care this time of year as the forests are fragile and even a few footsteps can muddy waters and kill special plants. Often people do damage without knowing it which is why trails are closed this time of year. That's not to forbid spring walks but instead a reminder to show respect.

I better show respect for the clock and get going here. We have a delivery arriving at nine and it's getting close.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where pulmonarias are showing nice color, bleeding hearts are 6" tall and two partridge are drumming. Their brief thunder is a mysterious joy to the ears of spring. Come listen!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

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~ ANNE said...

Bears, bleeding hearts and those thunderous bird beats. Can't ask for anything better. Thanks for the trip George! Its fun to travel to the country from Burlington even by blog!

@anne_barbano @ TWITTER

joey said...

George, I have yet to find wild leeks on the forest floor ... nor morels, which I adore. We have many black bears at the lake ... many, many years ago, one butted and pushed on the old cottage door, vying for entry and more fish guts that we had left on the outdoor stump (something we would never do today). Warm wishes for a happy spring :)