Today we set out to re-find what used to be one of our favorite springtime outings–hunting for leeks. So, we dialed it back ten years and re-traced our steps to a low-lying, soggy part of the woods out back…
In 2010, I told the kids they could bring whatever they could fit (and carry) in their own backpack. A plastic boat, kiddie binoculars and crayons made the cut. Of course, I threw in lots of scooby snacks, too. Today we packed up our big-kid toys: a chainsaw in hopes of finding some gnarly trail maintenance and the two must-haves for harvesting leeks (we learned the hard way)–a sturdy knife (or dandelion digger) to slice the stubborn root hairs holding the bulbs underground and a cloth bag (so the leeks can breathe).
Just like a decade ago, we dawdled along not caring much about when we reached our destination. Turns out getting out-and-about for a bit of fresh air is what mattered more. So, today we stopped along the way tasting tubers (the spring beauties are up!), calling to our hounddog, Eddy, to give up the futile chipmunk chase, and staring in awe at a gimungous beech tree, albeit dead and down from beech-scale nectria.
There’s something humbling and therapeutic about wandering the woods in early spring–the promise of things to come. For me, it’s not just that pungent, earthy smell that sits first on the breeze but also what all these plants went through to make their perennial debut. Just days ago it was snowing and blowing to beat the band. And today, Voila! Wild leeks, trout lilies, spring beauties and Dutchman’s breeches are showing their panache.
As we near the wetlands, we’re reminded why leeks are the boldest of the bunch–an overwhelming pungence wafts through the air and elicits an “Ewwww!” from all of us. Oniony odor aside, wild leeks are quite glamorous with their iridescent green leaves and red stems on display above the carpet of dingy leaves. We spent quite a while wrestling with the roots and trying not to break off the stems, but we only stuck with it long enough to get a handful. Turns out, what we needed most today, even more than a harvest of wild leeks, was some good ole’ grubbin’ around in the dirt.
So during these uncertain times, I highly recommend The Great Leek Hunt as a reminder that spring is eternal and will come, always.
P.S. Don’t forget to pack the scooby snacks!