CHASE — When spring awakens in the mixed-hardwood forests of Lake County, the air is perfumed with the earthy scent of wild leeks — a woodland edible enjoyed by residents.

Also called ramps, spring onion or wild garlic, wild leeks are a native species of wild onion which flourish in climax forests.

The bulb, stalk and broad spring-green leaves, which are similar in appearance to Lily of the Valley, are edible. When the leaves die back during later spring, a stalk of white flowers appear.

Weather permitting, leeks usually begin growing in local regions by mid to late April. They are most tender and mild to eat before they reach their full height. Due to the late spring, leeks in the county are still prime for picking.

Leeks can be used in stirfry, cooked with meats, used in broth and added fresh in salads. They can be preserved by dehydration and also by snipping and freezing the bulbs, storing them in freezer bags.