Hooray .It’s coq-a-leeky time. For the past several years my friend House and I go out to our secret spot in a nearby woods and harvest wild leeks. They grow three quarters of the way down a steep hill so the element of danger grows stronger every year with aging limbs. Let me tell you, it’s damn hard using a shovel on a steep hill when you can’t balance on one leg. Jeanine’s advice as I was leaving “try not to fall down the hill” Exactly. I had my cell phone with me but realized that if either of us went down there would be no immediate rescue. We made a pact to leave the fallen man behind and press on should disaster strike. The soil was wet this year, so it was an easier job digging them out. It only took us about an hour to fill our recyclable shopping bags.
When we had successfully dragged ourselves back up the incline we paused to sit on a fallen tree and observe the moment. We discussed as we always do how it would be great to build a camping platform at this spot and retreat here when our “other” worlds became too much. The annual pipe dream. As the sun filtered through the trees we watched the dogs for awhile as they ran around with noses to the ground. Then, as every year we validated the ritual as something important to us that we will repeat faithfully for as long as we are able. Pause. Time to make our way back through the difficult new growth.
It takes Jeanine a long time to clean the leeks, and take off the little hairy bits on the ends, but she doesn’t seem to mind. We both know what’s coming. That night we make our version of Coq-a-leeky soup, a perennial spring favourite of many cultures including the Scottish. We get a pot of chicken broth simmering and drop in about 8 full cloves of garlic, and a couple of cut up potatoes. We let that simmer until the potatoes are quite soft ( about 15 min). Next we throw in the chopped up wild leeks (use everything) and give it about another 10 minutes. A little pepper, or soya if want to give it an Asian flavour. But not so much as to cover the subtle flavor of the leeks. No oil or fat is involved and we love the flavor. Most importantly, it is an amazing spring tonic. I notice I have better energy the next morning. Jeanine talks about how in France it is common for people to do a “cure” from time to time. Short of an absolute fast which can be debilitating and potentially dangerous, they simply restrict themselves for a few days to eating small amounts of only one simple, nutritious thing . Some use fruit, others fish or vegetable stock, etc. Currently it is not the only thing we are eating so it can’t be considered a full cure, but we have been predominantly eating just the leek soup since, and will continue until it’s gone. By the way, we wrap the cleaned leeks in paper towels and store them in the crisper. There are a lot of other creative and delicious ways to cook these little treasures. I recommend trying to get your hands on some while they’re in season. It’s worth the effort.