Wild Leeks or Ramps are only available during a short Spring season. Make the most of your foraging harvest by preserving them in this delicious and versatile pesto.
Spring Foraging in North America
In North America Wild Leeks are one of the first Spring time wild edibles to emerge as the growing season begins. They are found in higher altitudes in Québec, Ontario, and even farther west in Alberta and British Columbia. Their uniquely pungent, garlic flavour makes them quite popular with chefs and foragers alike. This popularity has also threatened their availability and they must be sustainably harvested so as not to decimate wild populations. If you are going to forage for ramps be sure to follow provincial regulations and mindfully harvest the wild leeks by:
- taking only a single leaf, leaving the other leaf and bulb intact; OR
- digging down carefully and cutting the bulb off at the roots, leaving the roots in the ground.
A Delicious and Versatile Pesto Made With Wild Leeks
Though traditional pesto (pesto alla genovese) is made primarily with fresh basil leaves you can substitute almost every kind of green in the recipe. I’ve made pesto out of dandelion greens, kale, Spring peas, beet tops, carrot tops, garlic scapes, and now wild leeks or ramps. Experimenting with greens is all part of the fun but if you want to keep some of the traditional flavour alive, I suggest adding at least a handful of fresh basil leaves to your pesto.
Using Pesto to Add Flavour
Once the pesto is made, the possibilities are almost endless. Add wild leek pesto to other ingredients to create a delicious tortellini filling such as I have in Tortellini with Stinging Nettle, Ramp Pesto, and Chicken. Boil up your favourite pasta al dente and add a spoonful of pesto for a quick lunch or dinner. Add a spoonful to soups, stews, and casseroles for that extra flavour boost or toss potato wedges in pesto and roast them for flavourful oven fries. Most pesto recipes (mine included) make more than enough to use in a few different meals and luckily, it freezes really well. I like to freeze it in ice cube trays because that means it will be perfectly proportioned for future meals.
Other Pesto Adventures from Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen:
Wild Leek (Ramp) Pesto
Wild Leek (Ramp) Pesto
- a good handful of fresh ramp greens; thoroughly cleaned
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1 large clove garlic; roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts; toasted
- 1/2 lemon; juiced
- 1/3 cup pecorino; finely grated
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Begin by blanching ramp greens in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 20 seconds. Drain, then shock in a bowl of ice water. You should have just over a cup of greens now.
- Add ramp greens to the bowl of a food processor, then add basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, lemon juice, and salt.
- Process for about 20 seconds, then while the processor is still running, begin to drizzle in the olive oil.
- Enjoy on hot pasta, in potato salad, on a sandwich, on a spatula...
- Never worry about Vampires ever again.