Tag Archives: low sodium cooking

Spring Leeks (aka Ramps)

This past spring while wandering my Door County, Wisconsin woods, the ground was covered with beautiful, light green leaves.

Wild Leeks

I knew it wasn’t trout lilies, since the leaves weren’t mottled, but I also knew it looked familiar.  Without a flower, I wasn’t sure what this plentiful plant was.  I sent a photo to my expert and she instantly answered “Leeks”!   My mom went on to remind me when I was a kid, we had people who would pull off the road near our cabin in Western NY and scramble around in the woods harvesting them.  I knew I had seen them before.

Wild Leeks

I did a little more research and realized I had a little foodie gold mine back there in the woods.  Wild Leeks, or Ramps,  (Allium tricoccum) have a sharp flavor, similar to an onion or garlic and come into season in the early spring.  You can recognize them by their smooth green leaves that emerge from the ground, with a hint of purple on the lower stem.

Wild Leeks

You know for sure you have ramps, when you break a leaf and you can distinctively smell onion/garlic.  No smell, no eating!!

I had never used them before, so I harvested just a little to try out in a couple of recipes.  Wild leeks are actually endangered or rare in many areas because of over-harvesting and they are hard to cultivate.  Rule of thumb to maintain a healthy patch is to only pick 5-10% of a patch, or harvest only the leaves.  To harvest, it’s easiest to use a trowel and loosen the dirt to make it easier to pop out the bulb and greens as a one.  Or, just have a clean shears to trim off the leaves and leave the bulbs behind.

Wild Leeks

Once I picked what I thought was enough to try in a couple of recipes, I left the rest alone to grow and be healthy for many years to come.  I also knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat them right away so I chose to freeze them for later use.

To freeze, first clean off the dirt, peel off any slimy outer skins and cut off the root end.

Wild Leeks

Oh, they look so delicious and the house smells so tasty. I then cut off the white bulbs and and put them directly into a freezer bag.  The greens I blanched for 1 minute in boiling water, plunged into ice water and then placed in a separate freezer bag.

blanching wild leeks

Wild Leeks

Once things had settled down a bit, I finally was able to get them out of the freezer to try.  I decided a Wild Leek Risotto was a good place to start.

Wild Leek Risotto

Using a tasty recipe for Wild Ramp Lemon Risotto from DOC  from The Kitchn, I made my first recipe.  Yum, is all I can say.  What a perfect low sodium side dish for some grilled Copper River Salmon.

Wild Leek Risotto

I still have enough for another meal and I have a bunch more risotto options to try. Check out my Pinterest site for some wild leek/ramp ideas.

Have you tried any foraging foods this spring?

BTW, the two things that are easily confused wild leeks are Trout Lily and Lily of the Valley.  Trout Lily have mottled leaves and white or yellow flowers that will appear at the same time and do not smell like onions.  Lily of the Valley are toxic and have two or three leaves on one stem, come up later in the season, and DO NOT SMELL LIKE ONION. As one who is not keen on foraging, I can attest to the fact that wild leeks smell like onions/garlic and lily of the valley do not.  Use that as your guide and all with be fine and delicious.

Now I’m ready to try out my garlic scapes.

Homegrown Spaghetti Squash

I have to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of squash.  I’ll grow zucchini and summer squash and eat them all summer, but don’t necessarily love them.

zucchini

At the grocery store, I pass the pile of winter squashes and look, but they just confuse me.

winter squash

What would I do with it?   Does it need to be peeled?  Which one is which?  I have on occasion brought one or two home and they sat in the kitchen, making me feel guilty until they became rotten and I’d throw it away.  My friends all seem to have great recipes for soups and salads, or just roasting and eating.  Not me.  I realize it’s bordering on irrational.

Two things have conspired to get me to finally cook spaghetti squash.  My husband had a side of spaghetti squash at a restaurant, loved it and suggested I try to cook some at home.   Then my mom grew some in her backyard garden this past summer.  I was really impressed with how great her harvest was and she gave me a couple when I was up visiting in October.

Mom also told me that she had read that as long as part of then stem is attached, it won’t go bad.  So when she harvested her squash, she left a couple of inches attached.  She also cured them for 10 days in the heat of her sun porch.  I think she did a good job hardening them off, since they held up really well without any special storage.

spaghetti squash

This was the first time she had ever grown any kind of fall squash so were both going to experiment with them.  I was challenged.  I wasn’t going to let these two beautiful squashes go to waste so I needed to figure something out.

After a very interesting internet search, I found that many recipes were very heavy on cheese, so trying to stick to a low-sodium diet necessitated some creativity.  I finally settled on just a simple roasting, and then sautéing with butter, garlic and parsley for the first time.

There seemed to be no consensus on how to roast the squash so here’s what I did.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.

spaghetti squash

spaghetti squash

Place the halves cut side down on a roasting pan and roast until softened, about 45 min.  It’s done when you can easily pierce the skin.

spaghetti squash

Remove from the oven.  Using a fork, scrape the fleshy spaghetti strands from the peel.

spaghetti squash

You can serve as is, it has a wonderful mellow flavor all on it’s own.  I sautéed it briefly in some butter, garlic and parsley.  There are so many things you can do with spaghetti squash.  You just need to be willing to try new things 🙂

What’s your favorite winter squash?