Forage: How to sustainably source wild leeks, one of Canada's most prominent spring edibles
Chef Shawn Adler shows how to identify, ethically harvest and cook with this special springtime delicacy
Anishinaabe chef Shawn Adler has been harvesting wild edibles since his mother first showed him how as a child. In each episode of Forage, he teaches us how to source in-season ingredients from our own backyards and sustainably forage them, before turning them into a delicious dish we can make and devour in our own kitchens.
Spring is a particularly ideal season for foraging in Canada, with all sorts of wild edibles sprouting up to meet the warmer weather. One of the earliest and most popular foods to crop up during this time is wild leeks, or ramps. In fact, due to their abundance, their tendency to arrive early and the fact that they can be easily spotted when coating the forest floor, wild leeks are often overharvested. In this episode of Forage, chef Shawn Adler provides a step-by-step guide to sourcing wild leeks the sustainable way. Then, he shows us how to transform those findings into a vibrant pesto pasta that captures all the spring flavours we love most. Check out the video below to see how it’s done, then scroll down to grab the recipe.
Wild Leek Pesto with Pasta
By Shawn Adler
- 1 cup wild leeks
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ¾ cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
- 3 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pasta of your choice
- ½ cup red peppers, sliced
- ½ cup fresh garden peas
Begin by thoroughly cleaning leeks in cold water to remove any debris. In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch leeks for 1-2 minutes and then shock them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Remove leeks from ice water and squeeze them to drain off as much excess water as possible. This will help to ensure that your pesto isn’t watery.
Roughly chop leeks and add them to a mortar and pestle or blender. Add in sunflower seeds, Parmesan, garlic, ⅓ cup olive oil, and a good pinch of both salt and pepper. Mash or blend and set aside.
Cook pasta to al dente following the directions on the packaging.
In a large saucepan over medium heat drizzle in 2 tbsp of oil. Add peppers, peas, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add drained pasta and a few scoops of pesto. Toss to combine.
Serve with a hearty helping of freshly grated Parmesan.