Foraging for ramps is just as exciting as foraging for any wild edible. Once you find them and taste how amazingly good these are, you are going to want to do it every year.
First things first. Harvest ethically and be sustainable! I think this is the most important rule in foraging. And it happens to be critical for ramps. More on that in a bit…
What are ramps you ask? Ramps (Allium tricoccum) or wild garlic/wild leeks are one of the earliest plants to forage for in the spring. They have one to two broad leaves with a purple/red-ish stem. It almost looks like Lily of the Valley. The leaves are about 1-2 inches wide and 4-11 inches tall. Ramps grow in the eastern part of North America, typically found in the Appalachians. On the homestead, we have several large patches and have found them in many surrounding areas. Make sure you are picking where you have permission or on land you own. Some local laws will not allow harvesting of any plant in state owned land or more specifically, conservation land. So, just make sure you know where you are picking and that you have permission to do so.
Okay, so you found your ramps. Now to harvest. This is a slow process and shouldn’t be rushed. Harvesting takes time, but it is so worth it. Ramps will grow in patches. I usually only pick from the larger patches and I only take about 5% of the patch. To start, you want to dig with a small trowel around the ramp clump. Not a lot, just enough to expose the stem underground. Then, with a sharp knife, (I use this Hori Hori Knife) you want to cut just above where the roots emerge from the plant. And that’s it! It is important to leave the roots because that will allow the plant to continue to grow, therefore, giving you more ramps for next year. Its always bothersome to see ramps at farmers markets or on websites that have roots attached. Its just poor practice and I believe that better harvesting information needs to be shared. So, don’t dig the roots. Also, leave the smaller ramps to mature. Only pick what you need. Again, make sure you have plenty of time to harvest. It is time consuming.
If you cant find ramps near you, take a trip to your local farmers market or health food store (I have found that many in the Hudson Valley carry them in the spring). Check out Mother Earth’s Storehouse. I have seen them in the produce section in years past.
I hope that you get outside this spring and look for these tasty spring treats. They are full of vitamin c and are so delicious that you will want to add them in to every recipe!
Here are a few ways I use ramps:
- In quiche- awesome with bacon!
- Make into a pesto. Its lovely over pasta. Or on pizza. YUM!
- Saute with olive oil, salt and pepper- replace to any dish that would call for garlic or onion.
- Dehydrate the leaves and grind into a powder- add to soups and stews and even chili!