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I Like Weeds: Ramps

I Like Weeds: Ramps

While not technically a weed, the ramp is a wild onion (or leek, depending on who you are talking to) that grows in somewhat marshy, shaded forests in many of the northern and eastern reaches of the country. The ramp (Allium tricoccum) looks much like a lily, with broad, smooth, medium green leaves with sometimes a purple hue to the stalk. Once dug up, the white bulb is visible and looks not unlike a scallion, but with a radically different flavor. The ramp has strong associations with the folklore of the central Appalachian Mountains and much fascination and humor have been fixated on the plant’s extreme pungency. Like garlic, people say that ramp lovers, after feasting on their favorite wild onion, stink to high heaven. The mountain folk of Appalachia have long celebrated early spring with the arrival of the ramp, believing it to have great power as a tonic to ward off many ailments of winter.

Chefs and food enthusiasts alike make a lot of fuss over ramps. While they may not be nearly as rarefied as some of the more desirable wild mushrooms, ramps are a tremendous addition to a number of dishes. But watch it, they do tend to overpower. The flavor combines all of the best attributes of garlic, leeks and onions, and this particular wild food is exceedingly easy to locate (providing the ferns haven’t taken over the forest floor). However, when harvesting be aware not to take all the wild ramps you could find. Be sure to leave behind some (or better yet, only take the tops and leave the root behind to regenerate) to flower for years to come.

Here are a few links to great ramp recipes that put this pungent wild food to good use:

I have had everything from ramp pizza to lime and ramp sorbet. Do you have favorite ramp recipes you would like to share with other Care2 readers? Any ramp foraging tips?

Read more: Blogs, Environment, Following Food, Food, Green, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Activities, Raw, Vegan, Vegetarian, , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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12:34PM PDT on May 14, 2013

Will keep an eye out 4 ramps-thanks!

7:35AM PDT on May 10, 2013

Thanks Eric.

11:30AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

wish they were in CA

6:51PM PDT on May 27, 2012

More people should get aware of edibles in their specific area!

6:50PM PDT on May 27, 2012

More people should get aware of edibles in their specific area!

6:35PM PDT on May 12, 2012

i didn't know what ramps were until recently--now I can't wait to try them--locally and organically grown, not harvested in the wild.

7:35PM PDT on May 11, 2012

Just thought that I would mention that it's my understanding that ramp are propogated by seed, not roots. Of course they have roots, but they spread like crazy by seeding themselves. Those of us who harvest them know to only take a few per clump. We had a delish pot of potato leek soup for dinner tonight. I think most wild harvesters practice taking only a few of anything and leaving the majority where we find it. Like everything else, I'm sure there are a few who greedily take all they see, but I would hope that they are the minority.

7:41AM PDT on May 10, 2012


11:16PM PDT on May 9, 2012

@Trudi --- they grew all over the place in the Lake District when i was but a callow youth. They're called wild garlic/ramps in UK. I was forever getting "that look" from my mum OBM when I'd come home reeking of ramps and proudly presenting her with a bunch (no roots!!!) for tea. Amuses me how stuff we ate and took for granted is now all trendy and up-market. My granny OBM used to swear by nettle beer and ramps as a spring tonic - and yes we children drank nettle beer but there was probably less alcohol than in non-alcoholic ale. By the way if you have a milk cow keep it well away from ramps, though it does give a whole new meaning to garlic butter

@ Lydia P -- where do you think we got our food before grocery stores were invented? 60 + years ago when I was a little lad we scavenged for food in the countryside - wild berries, crab apples, herbs, fish, rabbits (before myxamatosis killed them off). Some of my earliest memories are of trailing along with my granny gathering herbs for medicine, plants for food. Actually there was a grocery store in the nearest big village but that entailed a 2 mile walk down hill to the nearest proper road, a long wait for the bus - they were every hour - a long bus ride. And then all the way back with the groceries - sugar, flour and a few other things we couldn't grow or make -- we made our own butter, cheese, grew our own veggies, had our own apple trees and berry bushes.

3:02PM PDT on May 9, 2012

Yum! (and I like the idea of planting some for next year!)

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