Wild Winter Leeks

IN

Pow! I nibbled my first wild garlic shoots of the season today and felt the January blues lift immediately and my metabolism ping into life. I don’t know or care if this was a psychological or physical reaction –  nothing beats our wild alliums to kick start the foraging senses.

Two varieties of wild leeks grow rapidly between November and March – three-cornered leek (allium triquetrum) and few-flowered leek (allium paradoxum). These are close cousins of much better known wild garlic (allium ursimum) which starts a little later – around the end of January near the coast.

The sprouting bulbs of few-flowered leeks litter December parks and woodlands and make amazing baby pickled onions or flavour-bombs in salads. The leaves of all three are excellent in salads instead of spring onions, or blitzed through soups at the last minute (the volatile oils that give them their vibrant flavour are rapidly degraded by heat).

My favourite preparation is to ferment them kimichi style. This requires only a small amount of salt (2% by weight), massaged into the chopped leaves until the juices flow. The leaves are then packed into clean jars until their exuded liquid seals them from the air and left to naturally ferment for 2-3 weeks. They then keep almost indefinitely, and are packed with flavour and healthy bacteria. For more detailed information on fermenting, see here.

Wild garlic buds

I’m yet to find any great drinks uses for alliums, but the strained fermenting juice makes an exciting mixer for tequila.

I’m yet to find any great drinks uses for alliums, but the strained fermenting juice makes an exciting mixer for tequila.

The buds, flowers and young seeds of all 3 make excellent eating too, as glamorous garnishes or lightly pickled.

I’ll be enjoying fresh alliums on an almost daily basis for the next 5 months, and plan to ferment enough to see me right through the autumn this year…though usually i’ve scoffed them all by September!

three corner leek, wild leek, allium triquertum, foraging, wild food, winter, january, flower

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