Posted by: ceara08 | February 25, 2008

Wild Leeks or Ramps – Plant Profile

Ah, I cannot say enough about Wild Leeks! They are so very tasty. Although I haven’t seen a single Wild Leek in many years, I can still remember the taste and scent. If you eat enough of them, the smell emits out of every pore. But if you are in a festival situation, just about everyone is eating the same stuff, and then you barely notice the smell.

The odor of the plant is most memorable, but the taste is unexplainable. It’s like an infusion of all the edible Alliums put together.

The leeks (Allium tricocum) grow wid in certain areas ranging from as far south as Georgia in the USA, to as far north as Quebec, Canada. They usually have a leek festival in the nothern areas, where the leeks are sometimes called “ramps.” In many places, the Wild Leek is protected with no picking allowed. In other protected areas, the population is high enough to allow each person to pick a minimum of 50 bulbs.

The Native American Indians used the Wild Leek in cooking, but also for medicinal purposes. This member of the onion family was used by Native Americans and early pioneers used leaves and bulbs from this plant for seasoning bland or tasteless foods. The juices from crushed bulbs were also used to treat insect stings by rubbing the juice on affected areas. Wild Leek

Because this plant is under a protective status and illegal to purchase in some areas, I’m having a difficult time obtaining this species. However, seeds are available and I have ordered some. Growth from seed to harvest takes a few years, and that’s the only downer about having to deal with seeds instead of a nice live clump of leek bulbs. I have no desire to sell them, but to preserve them in a new colony on our property and also eat a few.

Supposedly they are “easy” to grow from seed. But some explanations of “easy” are to sow the seeds in a cold frame, and maybe they will sprout within two years.

But a quicker way to get them going is to plant in some damp seedling mix in a plastic container, and place in the refrigerator for three months. Then place the container in a warm area for three more months. If the seeds have not sprouted by the end of the warm growth period, place back in the refrigerator for another three months, but check on them frequently. Once they have sprouted, place once again in a warm area to grow. When they are large enough, harden off and plant outdoors in their final spot.

Well that is the theory of starting wild leeks from seed anyway. I’ll know more once the seeds I ordered arrive in the mail. They will be started as soon as possible, since germination takes so long.

Wild Leeks form colonies where they are happy growing. To harvest in the spring, dig up a clump, wash well to remove sand and soil, and enjoy! You can also just harvest the leaves which supposedly also have a nice onion-y flavour, although I have never eaten the leaves. The Native Americans used to slice off the root portion and replant, thus conserving the plants.

So I will attempt with seeds and see how it goes. Of course, I’d rather have live plants to establish, but it seems unlikely to be able to order from any commercial source. Unless someone out there in Canada has some wild leeks on their private property that they’d be willing to share. *crosses fingers*



  1. I enjoyed your leek artcile even if it was just over a year ago. Good presentation and good reading. I love leeks and have some sizable colonies growing on my property here in northwestern PA. It’s leek season now. Thanks again

  2. Thank you! Although I must say I am “green” with envy! Last year’s seed attempt did not work – nothing germinated!

    However I started a new batch. They were winter sown in February 2009 and currently in our unheated, south facing sun porch which should provide multiple warm/cold cycles naturally. When I check the pot, the leek smell is there! But no germination yet. I have corresponded with Montreal Botanical Gardens and they say my area is out of range so they will not send me any live plants confiscated from overzealous pickers who pick over their 50 plant limit, but wish me luck in germinating seeds. Which is a shame because I have the IDEAL spot for a colony out in the back fields of our 100 acres.

    It is next to impossible to convince anyone to mail me some live clumps. Maybe because I’m in Quebec. And in Quebec, sales of wild leeks are illegal due to the protected status. *sigh* But I do not want to sell them, I want to get a colony going for preservation. And of course, occasionally pick a few every spring!

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