In Ojibwe, zhigaagawanzh+iig means onion, wild leek is a popular foraged plant by people who aren’t otherwise foragers around here. Some properties have carpets of them. Others have been stripped of them as people don’t know offhand how long the bulbs take to grow and how easy it is to devastate a population of ramps. In some areas this popular edible and medicinal plant is endangered.
I’ve enjoyed wild leek grilled panini twice this week. And there’s some potato and wild leek soup in my near future. My immediate area has been over-harvested, so I get them at the studio. This year I replanted some on my property in hopes to establish them plentifully here, though it will take some time. Some folks are lucky enough to own properties where there are thousands upon thousands of leeks.
Edible Uses of Wild Leek
Some folks can stomach the strong bulbs, some can’t. One bulb can ruin a dish for super sensitive tummies. The leaves are amazing enough, and leaving the bulbs and rhizomes (at least leave the rhizomes) will keep carpets of ramps in the woods. United Plant Savers recommends taking just one leaf per plant in areas where it’s at risk. The young leaves are best until they unfurl into broad leaves.
Bulbs can be harvested early spring through autumn. But please give this article a gander.
Medicinal Uses of Wild Leek
Wild Leek is primarily said to support these body systems:
Medicinal tags include Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiviral, Diuretic and Expectorant. See Medicinal tag key for more information.
Common usage includes rubbing a bit of the juice on insect bites to relieve stings. I use store bought onions to help open my sinuses and for coughs, but I haven’t experimented with wild ramp bulbs for this as they are too strong for my stomach.
People used to wear onion or garlic around their neck to prevent illness. I don’t know if it helps, but you’ll keep some people away, that’s for sure.
Alternative Uses of Ramps
It’s a great bridge to talking to friends about over-harvesting and at risk plants. I dare ya! Find out more at United Plant Savers. And join up, if you will, and can!
Growing Spring Onion
Replant bulbs with the rhizomes attached or plant the seeds – click on United Plant Savers link just above for detailed instructions.
There are local pollinators who will use the pollen or nectar as a food source, so make sure to leave flowering stems, for the bees and for the seeds.
There are lookalikes, but only the wild leek smells strongly of garlicky onion goodness.
Take it easy at first, it can cause memorable gastric distress.
And the Usual Cautions:
1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.
2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.
3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored. Herbalists do not have an official certification yet, but that may be in the works.
4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.
5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.
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Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants