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Wild Leeks – Succulent Stinky Solitude

Angie and Anne were in town this weekend. As soon as they got here, Angie handed me a ziploc bag.  "Dave said to give you these.", she said. It was a ziploc sandwich bag full of wild leeks no doubt freshly picked by Dave in some secret spot deep in the Adirondacks.  I gazed at the bag in disbelief, then clutched them to my chest in joy.  "Oh happy day!", I said with no sarcasm or irony.

Wild Leeks (Allium Tricoccum – also known as Ramps) used to grow in dad’s woodlot when I was a kid. I remember walking through a patch of them and smelling a distinctly oniony smell.  They only show up for a few weeks in the spring.  I always picked a bunch when I found them, brought them home and ate them raw.  I ended the practice at around the age of 15, when I acquired a steady girlfriend. Wild leeks and youthful romance do not mix.  In fact wild leeks and human companionship of any kind do not mix. 

While they taste like a rich combination of a sweet onion and garlic, the resulting bad breathe will knock a buzzard off a shit wagon. Eat enough of them, and the smell literally comes out of your pores for a couple of days.  My best friend and I once got thrown out of history class for eating them during class.  I can still remember Mr. Cook pointing to the door and saying "Out – both of you! Come back when the stench is gone!"   He wasn’t overreacting. We were eating them by the handfull out of a brown paper bag.  The stink must have been apocalyptic.

Anyways, I held off on eating any until Saturday afternoon, when all the womenfolk were off at Cindy’s shower. I ate a couple of them, and discovered after a thirty year layoff that I still love the damn stinky things.  As a scientific experiment I located a small boy (Matthew), and breathed on him to judge the effect. Not surprisingly, he clutched at his face and tried to crawl under the couch, so he could tear the nose off his face in peace.

Anyways, I ate a few more tonight. Beth didn’t really complain (bless her heart), but she didn’t kiss me goodnight either.  She knows I’m indulging in a little Allium Tricocum related nostalgia. I froze the rest, since I won’t have time to make leek soup till next week at the earliest. Supposedly blanching and freezing take care of a lot of the stink.

Are they really that good? Yes they are. They’re delicious. That’s not the only reason for my fixation with these things.  The thought (and the stink) of leeks brings back memories of wandering my dad’s woods on cool, sunny spring days. It was just a few acres of trees, but it was peaceful, remote and quietly beautiful.  I used to slog through hay fields and pastures on foot to spend a few hours in the woods,  just to be alone with my thoughts.

Anyways – thanks Dave! You made my weekend. 


  1. Maybe if the whole family ate them, it would even out? I went on a garlic kick that had similar results, without the happy memories. 🙁

  2. Debbie Bryant

    May 20, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Oh, my gosh, Pat, this post made me laugh! I first heard about ramps 2 years ago when I joined the local bird and nature club here in SW Pennsylvania and saw them growing near West Virginia. I’d love to try them, as I love both onions & garlic, but only if everyone with me was equally adventurous! There are a number of “Ramp Festivals” in West Virginia. They probably make a fortune selling bottles of mouthwash & packs of gum at the exit gates!
    I really do enjoy hearing what’s going on with you & yours. Plus, I learn some new phrases I can’t wait to employ, like a smell bad enough “to knock a buzzard off a shit wagon”. >:-)
    Love, Deb



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