How to Use and Where to Find Wild Ramps


| 5/5/2016 3:05:53 PM


Tags: Foraging, Ramps, Wild vegetables, Jennifer Landis,


Photo by Fotolia

The world of trendy food is a fast-paced and fickle one. Big ticket items, like ancient grains and street food inspired dishes, are popping up in menus left and right. One hit item you won’t want to miss? Ramps.

Ramps (allium tricoccum) are a type of wild onion native to the moist deciduous forests of the Northeastern United States. Also called wild leeks, these plants have a taste similar to a combination of onions and garlic. (Ask any chef, and they’ll tell you that onions and garlic go together like peas in a pod.) On the onion spectrum, ramps have a stronger taste than the typically mild leeks, and have a more robust garlic flavor.

These pungent plants are so popular, festivals are held in celebration of their many culinary applications. Likewise, foraging for ramps draws increasing crowds to the Northeast every year. Ramps typically sprout in early March or April and continue to grow until around June, when the temperature rises and the leaves die back.

A Foraging We Will Go!

If foraging for ramps sounds like an activity you’d like to try, start right after the snow disappears, when plants just start growing back. Look for their broad, light green leaves and deep purple stems poking out from the forest floor. Check to make sure you have the right plant by tearing off a leaf and sniffing for the onion scent. This is to ensure that you don't accidentally pick the near identical, but highly poisonous, lily of the valley. The plants are in the same family, so they share many characteristics. However, lily of the valley leaves are scentless. Lily of the valley also has tiny, bell shaped flowers along the stem, while ramp blossoms are clustered at the end.

While many acknowledge that the peppery, garlicky flavor of ramps really kicks up dishes, their popularity has led to a sharp decline in their wild population. At the aforementioned festivals, nearly all the ramps used are foraged locally. Should you go hunting for some ramps of your own, don’t get greedy, and follow sustainable harvesting methods.




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