Wild Leeks Soup

It is the season of wild leeks. That season is short. In the woods, green covers the forest floor. The bright new leaves pierce the dried maple and beech leaves that fell in the fall. When the sun shines through the bare branches, you can smell them.

My son and I popped into the woods late in the afternoon. We each had a trowel. We dug up some leeks. Drive the trowel straight down, pull it back to loosen the soil and shake out some leeks. They are sort of similar to leeks you might buy in a market, but much smaller, smaller than typical scallions. And they are softer, more fragile. We made a small pile, enough to hold in one hand. Bright green on one end, covered in dark dirt on the other.

I washed them in the sink. I collected quite the pile of soil in the trap, mixed with a few dried leaves and grass stems. I had a clean bunch in the end, ready to be made into soup. I cubed several potatoes and sliced the leeks, tossed them with butter and olive oil, and sauteed. I added some water, some stock, some salt and pepper, and cooked it all into a soup.

I also made dinner rolls. I hear yeast is getting hard to come by. We always have a lot on hand anyway, so we are good to go for now. Dinner rolls are like the lazy bread–make some dough and knead it and let balls of the stuff rise in a pan. Then bake it and… fresh rolls, easy and quick. Soup and bread–pretty standard dinner around here.

Oddly, by the time the soup had reduced and gotten thick, it turned a bit green. I mean, the leeks were green but I have never had them turn other stuff green. And this new green was much darker–not the bright green of the fresh leeks. So it had a bit of an off color, but it was dang tasty. Those cut leeks smelled strong before they cooked down so I admit was a little nervous that I had put in too many leeks, but my fears ended up being unfounded.

Our wild leek window is small so I need to dig up some more before they fade away. Omelets? Quiche? Pizza topping? I’ve got lots of options. Especially if I want some green food.

More to Pick

Late Summer Bounty

I picked a few more things from our garden today.  The harvest is winding down but we do have more to pick.  I wanted some leaks for dinner (to start off the pumpkin soup) and I had to pick the zucchini before it got enormous. The cucumbers needed to be cut off the vine (they have been getting bitter quickly) and that pepper is going with the roasted potatoes. The melon was iffy.  I am hoping it is ripe as I want to serve it with dinner. If not we have a back up watermelon and a few slices from the last melon from our garden (tastes like candy).

Yet to go: three or four more melons, a few peppers, maybe a zucchini or two, a couple of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes out the wazoo, lots of leeks.  We have several green tomatoes still as well. That isn’t bad for September. And did I mention the basil? More pesto for the freezer (and for immediate consumption) is in the works. Like I said, not bad for September.

Fall Arrival and Some Harvesting

Yesterday I pulled the few onions we had growing in our garden.  Most of the seedlings didn’t make it but a few managed to grow.  We ate a couple of them not long ago.  They are some strong onions.  Tasty, however.  These will need to dry a little so they can last long enough to use them all.  Too bad rain is in the forecast for the next couple of weeks.

Onions Out of the Dirt

Onions Out of the Dirt

I also picked a bunch of leeks.  I made a big batch of potato leek soup.  We had a slew of potatoes to use up and all those leeks in the ground.  It tasted pretty good last night for dinner with some buttered toast.  It tasted even better for lunch today.

A Fine Row of Fine Leeks

A Fine Row of Fine Leeks

The peppers are almost red as well.  We have been picking them and eating them but they are so much sweeter when they are fully ripe.  Plus the seeds will sprout easier if the peppers are fully ready when they are picked.  And they are beautiful.

Peppers Almost Ripe

Peppers Almost Ripe

The popcorn is still growing, trying to ripen before the cold sets in. Problem is, the cold kind of has set in. It’s not winter yet or anything but it has been in the 40’s in the morning.  I can’t imagine we will get mature ears out of these plants, but who knows?  I’m willing to wait it out.

Popcorn Still Making a Go of It

Popcorn Still Making a Go of It

The blueberries, on the other hand, have long given up the idea of producing fruit.  Their leaves are turning.  They are redder than the peppers.  They too are beautiful.

Fall Has Arrived for Certain

Fall Has Arrived for Certain

Garden Woes

Ready for Planting

Ready for Planting

We started our garden at the house in which we now live in 2007.  That garden was limited.  We dug up some lawn and gathered some compost and got going.  We planted tomatoes and carrots and lettuce, pumpkins and strawberries.  Last year we expanded, adding more compost and digging more beds.  This is year three.  That first summer we had no problems at all.  Everything grew like gangbusters.  Now the troubles have started.

One mistake was getting compost from a new source last year.  It was filled with weeds and contained the larvae of cucumber beetles.  Cucumber beetles eat the roots of young plants and then, after they hatch, eat the leaves of the same plants.  I have had to replant zucchini and yellow squash and cucumbers, and the melons are pretty much bumming.  I have done nothing yet to get rid of them this spring so our problems persist.  I thought turning the soil late in the fall would help.  I turned it all again early in the spring.  No dice with that simple plan.

I planted peas for the first time this year.  They started off well but now the rabbit that hangs out in the woods has discovered the plants.  It keeps whittling them down to nubbins.  The pea plants are no taller than they were six weeks ago.  Then our cuddly friend discovered the carrots and the lettuce.  The little pecker is nibbling down our salads.  And a squirrel is eating our strawberries.  These critters are killing me.

I planted popcorn today.  Last year I had to plant corn three times.  The first time the turkeys ate the sprouts just as they emerged.  Then the crows did the same after I put up a scarecrow (can you say misnomer?).  Finally I hung a string across the bed with old CD’s hanging from it.  Those spinning reflectors kept the birds away.  I hope that this trick will keep them away again.  The popcorn was one of our best crops last year.

At this point the onions, at least the ten out of 26 that survived (no idea what was up with that) are healthy.  The leeks (except for the handful some crazy bird yanked out but left on the soil) are shooting up, and the pumpkins are spreading.  The tomatoes and peppers (planted a few days ago) are still alive but my optimism is wavering.  We will have some food out of this endeavor but not as much as we might.

I’m not all that upset, really.  I am disappointed, of course, but not upset.  This gardening adventure is about persistence over the long term.  I planted red zebra tomatoes the first summer.  They grew well but were not the sweetest.  I may plant them again as sauce tomatoes, or I might consider trying to grow them over a few years to breed sweeter fruit, but I learned that another variety might be better.  I also have not had much luck with melons.  They need warm weather and lots of it.  The beetles snacking on them don’t exactly help.  So melons will require much more trial and error (hopefully with diminishing error).

I have had luck with seeds I saved for peppers and pumpkins.  I will try more of that this year.  I like the idea of keeping the cycle going–planting seeds from plants that grew the previous year, then doing that again.  It is amazing that it works at all.  Plant a few seeds and they grow into plants that provide food?  That is plain old miraculous, really.

So I do what I can to keep things growing.  I weed and water and hang old computer discs.  I need to get on the cucumber beetles.  They haven’t hatched yet, but I know they won’t wait for an invitation to sit down to dinner on my cucumbers.  Their social graces, it seems, are less than refined.

Onions and Leeks on the Rise

Green Inside and Green Outside

Green Inside and Green Outside

Check these babies out.  I planted these almost six weeks ago, leeks on the left, onions on the right.  I got a great yield–all but one cell has sprouts.  I have had to clip them a few times–that smelled good.

Last year I planted leeks because my seed packet of onions only had a few seeds.  They worked so well I decided to plant both this year.  So far I have been pleased.  The onions I did manage to get last year grew well and were tasty.  I look forward to eating them once they mature.  That is a long way off, but I am patient.  Gardening seems to require patience.

As you can see through the window above, things are getting green out there.  I will plant in a couple of weeks.  I still need to edge the garden beds and pluck some weeds, but I will be ready in time.  The sooner I get plants in the ground, the sooner we get to eat fresh vegetables.  Although we had frost the past couple of mornings, summer is just around the corner.

The peppers (from seeds I saved) so far are duds, as are the cherry tomatoes (two years old) but heck, something will grow.  I am so ambitious that I probably have too much to fit in our garden space anyway.  I can hardly wait to get my hands dirty and plant more seeds.  I get giddy just thinking about it.

Wild Leeks

Not far from our house there is a spot where the wild leeks grow like gangbusters.  This time of year they fill the woods, not only with their bright green leaves but with their fragrance.  Running past I can smell the odor of onions.

Yesterday I ran past and, inhaling one of the sweet smells of spring, said aloud, “Look at all that food.”  The green stretched across the floor of the woods as far as I could see.  It really was a lot of food, and almost no one would eat it.

I thought about this as I ran.  I also thought about the bash we would be hosting later in the day.  Then the two thoughts merged.  I was planning to make potato salad once I got back.  The recipe I had found called for onions and garlic.  The merged thought consisted of substituting some wild leeks for that onion and garlic.

And so on the way back past that spot in the woods I veered into the trees.  I brushed away the dry leaves, dug my bare fingers into the cold earth, and dug up some food.  They are small, not at all the supermarket version of leeks.  They are more the size of scallions.  I carried them lightly in my left hand as I ran slowly home.

The potato salad came out great.  It was one element of a fine pot luck dinner.  The problem, as I discovered/realized when evening came and we got to the business of cleaning up the final bits, was that it never got put out.  We simply forgot about it.  It sits in the fridge still, waiting for a diner.  I was going to have it for lunch but we still had some guests who spent the night.  I forgot again.

I need to head back over to the leek patch before long to harvest some more of the tasty little plants.  Spring doesn’t last long and soon they will be swallowed by the rest of the undergrowth.  They aren’t as tasty later in the spring or in the summer.

I will grow my own leeks in the summer but they don’t offer quite the same feeling as picking food straight from the woods.  Of course, that doesn’t matter much if I leave whatever I make sitting around uneaten, now does it?


In January of every year I look forward to busting out the various seed catalogs and ordering seeds for spring planting.  January may seem a little early but it is about right.  If something isn’t available an early order gives me time to order something else, or to order elsewhere.  Plus it just gets me fired up.  Thinking of fresh produce in the dark days of the year helps remind me of the warm days that really are not that far away.

This year I spread the catalogs and was planning what to order and from where to order it, when I serendipitously uncovered, buried on the desk, an order form for seeds.  It was for a fund raiser for my son’s school.  They were from a local company, High Mowing Seeds.  Their selection was more limited than I had been looking at in my many catalogs, but they had pretty much what I needed.  I don’t know why I hadn’t looked at this company before.  So I put away the catalogs and filled out the order form.

Yesterday the seeds arrived.  It took a while, of course, but I am still in good shape.  Next weekend is the weekend to start planting.  Not outside, of course.  The ground is still frozen.  I will take down the foam cells from the shelf in the garage and plant onions and leeks.  Last year I planted both of these and they grew well once I transplanted them.  I can hardly wait to get my hands dirty.  In the past the children have helped me and I hope they are just as eager this year.  It is a fun family project.  Plus, we can all get a little muddy together.

Last year about this time I did plant onions but not many.  The seed packet I got from Seeds of Change contained only seven seeds.  It was supposed to have contained about 100 seeds.  That wasn’t what I was expecting.  I wanted to plant right then and so I couldn’t wait to order more seeds.  So I went to the hardware store to find some.  They had seeds but no onion seeds.  Apparently no one plants onions from seed around here.  They buy onion sets, the mini bulbs, and plant those instead.  So I bought leeks.

That purchase was an accidental discovery.  We had lots of leeks.  They grew well.  The lasted a long time.  They were delicious (those grilled leek, summer squash, portobello mushroom sandwiches with melted cheddar were dreamy) and I want to plant them again.  I am hooked on leeks and I can hardly wait until they are ripe.

Seeds of Change did me right this time around.  I called and told them what happened and they sent me a fresh packet of onion seeds.  Their seeds have been great and now I know their customer service is great as well.  I will order from them again.  High Mowing Seeds have been great as well.  I planted some lettuce from seeds a friend gave us and it was the best lettuce of five varieties we have grown.  I am guessing I will have some good success all around.

I need to bust out the plant rack from the basement to set the seeds trays on.  I will plant fewer plants indoors this year.  Cucumbers will do fine if I plant them outside, maybe even better.  In a few weeks I will plant tomatoes, and maybe melons.  The rest can wait until the ground thaws.  I will also give some seeds to the kids.  They can have their own corner of the garden.  They won’t be planting onions in their plot, however.  I’ll let them grow something they might like.

March is here, baby.  Let’s get planting.