Wild Ramps


You may not know this, but if you are a food writer, you are required to write about ramps in the spring. It’s a new rule. It used to be mandatory to write about asparagus, now it’s ramps. Ramps, also called wild leeks or if you are a botanist, Allium tricoccum, are a harbinger of spring. They start to emerge in wooded areas in April just as the last of the snow has melted. I think their early spring nature is part of the appeal. They signal that the winter is over and that the fresh vegetables are on the way. Hurray!

While I’ve been reading and hearing about ramps, until last year, I had never tried them or even seen them. More than once I saw an empty basket labeled “ramps” at the farmers market. Apparently, I wasn’t getting up early enough. They were a mystical thing to me.

Not having luck getting them at the farmers market, I decided I would forage for them on my own. As usual, my husband was game to help out. Since neither of us had even seen a ramp in person, hunting for them was a little challenging. With an iphone loaded with the ramp entry from wikipedia in hand, we headed to the woods.

Ramps have green leaves, with purplish stems and white bulbs. The bottom looks like a scallion bulb and the top is a broad, floppy leaf. The whole plant is edible.

There is concern that the popularity of wild ramps may be decimating the crop. If you are picking your own, be sure to leave some behind, or better yet, bring a knife and cut the ramp close to the ground, leaving most of the bulb in the ground.

On our hunt, we were in no danger of decimating the crop. We pulled various ramp-like-looking plants. After close examination and deep sniffs, we decide that they probably weren’t ramps. Apparently, you can identify a ramp by its strong onion/garlic aroma. We left the forest with dirt under our nails, a couple of ticks, but nary a ramp. Dang.

To my delight, the next weekend, I finally made it to the farmers market before the ramps sold out.

As one who loves raw onions and adds garlic to dishes with a heavy hand, I found the ramps on the mild side. They have a mild onion flavor with a hint of garlic. When roasted they develop a delicious sweet flavor.

Done. Now I can check “write about ramps” off my list. My bet for the next mandatory spring write-up: the wild onions that dot our backyard.

Recipes: Ramp Butter, Roasted Ramps


Linked to: Pennywise Platter Thursdays,  Homestead Barnhop,  Real Food Wednesday,  Whole Food Wednesday