A Forager’s Guide to Wild Leek (Ramps)

link to A Forager’s Guide to Wild Leek (Ramps) A Forager’s Guide To Wild Leek (Ramps)
Wild leek (Allium tricoccum) is a plant that resembles an onion and grows in the woods. The smooth, elliptical-shaped leaves appear in the spring, making them easy to identify in the forest. You can eat the leaves and bulbs which have a mild onion flavor.

What is wild leek?

Allium tricoccum (commonly known as ramp, ramps, ramson, wild leek, wood leek, or wild garlic) is a species of wild onion native to eastern Canada and the eastern United States. 

Wild leek refers to several plants in the genus Allium, including:

What is the difference between wild garlic and wild leeks?

According to experts, when used as nouns, wild garlic refers to ramsons, bear garlic, and Allium ursinum, whereas wild leek refers to a perennial wild onion native to eastern North America, Allium tricoccum, with a cluster of ovoid bulbs and large, oblong, elliptical leaves.

Are wild leeks and ramps the same thing?

Ramps and wild leeks are the same plants.

Where does Wild leek grow?

Wild leeks (or ramps) typically grow in forests with dappled sunlight. They are primarily found in the eastern half of the United States and Canada.

The two varieties (Var. tricoccum and Var. burdickii) grow in the same geographical region.

As far north as Canada, west to Missouri and Minnesota, and south to North Carolina and Tennessee, they can grow in patches in moist, rich deciduous forests and bottomland.

Wild leeks thrive in medium soil moisture in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 5-8.

Wild leek flowers
Wild leek flowers

How to identify wild leek?

It’s pretty easy to identify the wild leek. Seasonality and location are key. They’re only around in April and May and only under hardwood trees. 

In full sunlight, ramps can’t compete, but when hardwoods provide dense shade during most of the growing season, ramps survive by soaking up the early spring sun. 

The flower stem is smooth and without its green leaves. Bloomtime is early summer, with white flowers.

Look in hardwood stands in April and May since little else can live in this dense shade environment. The ramp plants are composed of 2-3 leaves with a bright yellow/green color and are borne on a red stem. 

Plants are relatively small, but they will resemble a carpet as they grow close together.

Wild leeks
Wild leeks

Can you eat wild leek?

Yes! The leaves and bulbs are both edible and have a mild onion flavor.

Foragers love them!

What do wild leeks smell like?

A distinctive onion smell emanates from them, and they die before the flowers bloom in June and July.

Many consider wild leeks to be gourmet foods because they produce an edible bulb that resembles an onion in taste and smell.

Wild leek: kitchen uses and recipes

It is said that wild leeks combine the best of culinary flavors. A little like garlic and a little like onion, they are sweet on all sides.

There are several ways to enjoy wild leeks, including raw, pickled, and cooked.

  • This wild plant is an excellent addition to spring salads, soups, pestos, and stir-fries, or you can dehydrate them and grind them into a powder.
  • A wild leek can be substituted for shallots or scallions almost anywhere a recipe calls for it. As ramps and wild leeks are the same thing, you can use them in any recipe that calls for ramps.
  • Simply cut off the spindly rooty parts, wash them, and you are good to go.

There is no shortage of recipes to cook wild leek; here are just a few:


Ana has always been interested in all things nature and flora. With her expertise in home gardening and interest in foraging, she has been spending her weekends and free time looking for edible native plants, flowers, and fungi. One of her many hobbies includes testing new savory and sweet recipes, juices or teas made from freshly picked plants, wild fruits, or mushrooms.

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