Ah, spring. The wild leeks (allium tricoccum for you latin sticklers) are out in all their glory. Here in Monday Forest, they grow in thick patches under the mixed hardwoods on the south facing slope of the ridge which runs through the property. There are a lot of wild leeks here, as many as I could possibly eat or pickle, but other than the leaves I chew on as I walk, I harvest very few. I used to feel like I should be responsibly harvesting this bounty of nature, and preserving it for the rest of the year, to keep my locavore cred intact, but I think I’ll make a meal or two and perhaps a small jar of pickles and leave it at that. Yesterday, on the radio, I heard a call-in show about foraging wild foods. Someone called in and told of picking bushels of wild leeks every year. I cringed when I heard that, not just at the thought of cleaning all those ramps, but at the destruction of all those plants. Only very mature leeks flower and set seed, so pulling up the plant, root and all, is a sure way to reduce the population. I haven’t seen any last year’s flowers with their shiny black seeds this spring, which I normally do. At this time of year, they stand out against the bare ground. Perhaps last year’s freakishly early spring with the heat and drought had an effect.
Monday Forest is 50 acres on two adjacent parcels of land. Up until 40 years ago, cattle grazed here and ate all the young saplings. The two parcels were then sold to different owners and the forest has been allowed to grow up on both sides. Our property has had many owners over the years, and benign neglect is probably the best word to describe the forest-management style. Our neighbour purchased his property 40 years ago, and has actively managed the forest. He has thinned trees to give them room, cut some firewood, tapped the maples, and cleaned up windfallen and broken branches. His side has a neater look, but he has nowhere near the number of wild leeks that our side has. I get that this is purely anecdotal, and correlation is not causation and all that, but it does reinforce my notion that often doing Nothing is better than doing Something.