Yesterday, I noticed green sprouts peeking through the leaf litter all over the open forest. Today on my walk, they were much larger and I was very happy to discover that they are wild leeks. It's easy to tell because the leaves smell and taste like garlic scapes, except fresher and even more delicious. The entire plant is edible and the bulb is much like a garlic clove.
Some of the plants flower later in the summer and their seeds are a bright shiny black. The plants with flowers are best left to grow on, because, as with so many spring ephemerals, there aren't any flowers until the root is several years old. Wild leeks are considered threatened in Quebec because of excessive harvesting and there are strict limits on the amounts one can pick there. Ontario has no such restrictions that I know of and some of the over-picking has apparently spilled over the border into eastern Ontario. I will pick some wild leeks, but I know that I wil be the only picker on my property and I will follow sustainable picking practices. Unfortunately, even folks who pick a small percentage of wild leeks in a given area can still contribute to a problem if there are other pickers doing likewise.
I will be spending some time finding recipes for wild leeks in preparation for harvesting some in a few weeks. This is our first spring on this property and this is a very pleasant discovery!