Provence has its truffles, Muskoka has its wild leeks. This greeny, leafy forest edible can be foraged from Muskoka woods—a region at the northern-most range of its Ontario growing area. Each spring, just as the snow is melting and the leaves are popping, Muskoka’s wild leeks come in season. Known commonly as ramps, wood leeks, even wild garlic, these delicacies grow low along the forest floor in shaded ravines and old wooded areas—the kind of growth regions popular among Ontario’s trillium and other wild perennials.
A Moment In Muskoka
Wild leeks are enjoying a moment in Muskoka and beyond. Toronto’s upscale green grocers—Harvest Wagon, St. Lawrence Market—have been known to stock wild leeks on their wooden tables at inflated prices. In cottage country, these “forest edibles” are used increasingly by Muskoka chefs and foodies in soups and salads, pestos and pickles, or as a flavour enhancer with similar talents of onions or garlic.
Muskoka’s Wild Leek Festival
Each spring, Muskoka hosts a Wild Leek Festival; scheduled this season for May 19-29, 2016. The festival celebrates the “epicurean delights” of Muskoka’s wild leeks with harvesting and stewardship workshops, as well as suggested hikes along marked trails in Muskoka forest. Organizers have also created an epicurean trail featuring wild leeks — recipes and special inclusions on menus at Muskoka restaurants, including Loondocks, The Oar & Paddle, and Sherwood Inn.
“Known commonly as ramps, wood leeks, even wild garlic, these delicacies grow low along the forest floor…”
In celebration of Muskoka’s Wild Leeks, Chef Hubert Obermeier of Severn Lodge has developed a recipe for Wild Leek Pesto with Almonds to share with MuskokasStyle. Thank you Chef, and thank you Muskoka Lakes Wild Leek Festival for calling our attention to these lovelies in the wild.
Wild Leek Pesto with Almonds
3 cups roughly chopped leek leaves
½ cup shredded parmesan
½ cup of roasted garlic
¾ cup of toasted almonds
1 cup vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lemon
S&P to taste
Place all ingredients except olive oil and salt and pepper in a blender.
Start blending on low, and slowly pour in olive oil until desired consistency is reached.
Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
Serve with fish, in pasta dishes, or as a side for warm bread!
Recipe from Chef Hubert Obermeier , Severn Lodge, Muskoka
Buying & Storing Wild Leeks
Suggestions from Foodland Ontario
“Good quality leeks are firm and smooth and free of blemishes, with leaves unfaded. Rounded bulb bottoms may indicate old age – look for flat bottoms. A bunch should be bound in several places to prevent leaf damage. Before storing, trim any bruised or damaged leaves. Keep damp, loosely wrapped, for up to one week at 32°F (0°C) in the refrigerator.”
Images courtesy of the Muskoka Lakes Wild Leek Festival.
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