Spring Treats

by kfrego

The Adirondack winters are long and cold. We always had lots of winter activities inside and outside. We didn’t dwell on the weather, as teenagers you took what was available and made the best of it. Shoveling snow, hunting rabbits, ice skating, and sometimes skiing were all a way of staying active during the winter. We seldom missed a school basketball game or a Sunday movie in Lyon Mountain. Scraping windshields and riding a few miles in a cold car were just part of getting where you had to go. Getting through the winter was just one of the prices we paid to get to warmer weather.

There is nothing like the arrival of the spring thaws after several months of snow and freezing weather. The snow starts to disappear, water is running everywhere, the roads are full of potholes and frost heaves, and it’s warming up. Mother nature is working diligently to blossom with new growth and colors to replace the drab of late winter. She is also cultivating and growing the first crop of the new season. Soon the wild leeks will be showing their leaves through the remnants of the snow.

Wild leeks are part of the onion family. The bulbs are like small scallions, but the plants are leafy. The wild leeks are a high test version of garden onions. Sort of a cross match between onion and garlic. They are known as much for their after smell, as they are for their taste. It’s easy to locate the person who has been eating raw leeks. Nobody is within ten feet of them. Sometimes for days. The leeks are strong tasting, but not unpleasant to eat raw. It’s the isolation you have to endure afterwards that is unpleasant. The leeks are outstanding for cooking. Use them to replace the onion and garlic in your spaghetti, soups, chili, and omelettes. Chop them up and include them in your favorite fried dishes. People won’t smell you coming if you eat cooked leeks.

The wild leeks grow randomly in the wet areas of spring. My favorite spots for them were sloping hillsides close to the Owly Out brook. The old pastures were slowly becoming overgrown with small trees and brush. Many people had their favorite places for leeks. When digging the leeks it was important to be selective and leave many plants for the future. I would never dig all the leeks in one area. The small early leeks were the best. The older leeks would become punky and bitter tasting. When digging leeks, always use an open top box to carry them home. Don’t fret about a little dirt still clinging to them. Keep them moist and prepare them for cooking or eating as soon as possible. My leeks were saved in baby food jars of refrigerated water or chopped into portions and frozen. For spaghetti, the leeks would be frozen with equal portions of green pepper.

Leeks are called ramps in the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains………. real leeks come from long cold winters near Lyon Mountain.