In this post I would like to share a recipe with you that I made a couple of nights ago with some foraging friends. Since Spring is upon us and Wild Leeks and Garlic Mustard are in full swing, this is the prime time to be out there harvesting these nutritious, delicious Spring Greens and finding a recipe to use them in! If you happen to like pesto (who doesn't?!) look no further.
What you will need:
3 cups Wild Leek Leaves (loosely packed)
5 Wild Leek Bulbs
2 cups Garlic Mustard Leaves and 3-5 medium sized roots
1/3 c. dry Parmesan Cheese (shredded)
1/2 c. Pine Nuts OR Walnuts
Olive oil to desired consistency (begin with at least 1/2 cup and go from there)
(All ingredient amounts can be modified to meet your personal taste preferences)
Blend all ingredients on a low setting in your blender or food processor. Or use a mortar and pestle. The finished pesto should be thick but pourable, with no large clumps or stringy stems. Use as you would 'regular' pesto, I liked mine tossed over some penne with a side of fried morels... yummm!
Wild Leeks, Allium tricoccum (sometimes called Ramps), can be found in hardwood forests throughout the Eastern United States. They taste like a combination of garlic and onion and can be found growing in great numbers in the Springtime. The bright, lime-green leaves which shoot up above ground in the spring give off a strong onion-y odor. There are 2-3 leaves per plant and since the leeks like to grow in dense stands you will probably be able to locate a patch even from a great distance through the trees. Because leeks are endangered in some areas (due to over-harvesting) please only take two or three from a single patch. To remove the leek use a small trowel to dig down right alongside the leek (perpendicular to the ground) 4-5 inches and gently remove the white bulb along with the rest of the plant. All parts of the leek are edible (and delicious) so be sure not to waste any of your harvest!
As for the other wild edible used in this recipe, there is no danger of over-harvesting here. This is because Garlic Mustard is one of the most infamous invasive species we have here in the Midwest. Originally from Europe, Garlic Mustard quickly spread across the woodlands of the Eastern US. For more about why exactly Garlic Mustard is so maddeningly good at being bad click here!
To harvest this green, bring a basket or paper bag along with you on your next hike. Be careful not to pick Garlic Mustard too close to main trails as this plant is sometimes controlled using chemicals. Once you have located several plants gently uproot the entire plant by pulling from the base of the stems where they all join together above the top of the root. The root is white and once cleaned can be used in your pesto. It also makes a delicious condiment with a flavor similar to horseradish.
When you get home from foraging, a simple rinse/scrub will suffice to get these greens ready for use in cooking. Using a sharp knife, remove the roots of the leeks and separate the bulb from the leaves. Separate the root from the leaves of the Garlic Mustard as well. We do this because there is significantly more flavor in the underground portion of these plants and using too many bulb/roots may result in too pungent a pesto.
Enjoy your pesto and please, let me know what you thought in the comment section!