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Ramps: The Most Delicious Signs of Spring

Ramps: The Most Delicious Signs of Spring

You may or may not be familiar with the term “ramps.” Allium tricoccum (commonly known as ramp, ramps, ramson, wild leek, wood leek, or wild garlic)[1][2] is a North American species of wild onion widespread across eastern Canada and the eastern United States.

Now do not think that this vegetable is a special item in seed catalogs or nurseries. Believe it or not, if you have a yard then chances you can see some growing soon. As a matter of fact, there is a whole industry that tries year after year to get rid of these little gems in yards. While your yard may appear clean right now, they are still living underground and just waiting for another season by which they can poke their heads again to welcome the spring.

Instead of trying to remove them from your yard, how about embracing them like a welcome mat to the earliest signs of spring? By allowing them to grow in your space and adding them to your dinner table as a seasonal treat.

Foraging for Ramps

When harvesting ramps keep in mind that their season is very short, which means you can expect to see them in your yard from late March to mid-May. If you have no yard, do not think you are never going to enjoy ramps. Many Farmers’ markets are now carrying ramps but keep in mind that the purchasing time is very short and since they are locally sourced, the amount will be very dependent on the supply.

The Most Delicious Signs of Spring - Foraging Ramps

If you are picking your ramps, make sure the tops are green and not yellow-looking.

On the other hand, if you are buying them at your Farmers’ market make sure that the leaves are a vibrant green and the bulbs are a shiny white and firm.

Unless you plan to use your ramps immediately, you will want to store them.

Do not store them as you would white onions. Ramps will need to be put in the fridge but do not just put them on a shelf. Now, you may wonder why you cannot just place them in the fridge. The reason is the strong onion aroma will fill your fridge and to be frank, everything will end up tasting like onions.

Ramps The Most Delicious Signs of Spring - Foraging

To prevent this situation, wrap your ramps in a newspaper or paper towel and place them in a sealable plastic bag.

The paper will absorb moisture and reduce rotting. The sealable plastic bag will keep the odors contained.

Do not prep your ramps before storing them in the fridge.

While they only last about three days, you want to only prepare what you are going to use at the moment.

How do you prepare them? The process is really simple. All you need to do is to clean soil off the plant material, cut the end off the bulb, and remove the outer layer of the bulb.

If you would like to harvest your own, make sure you are selecting the correct plant. Ramps are easy to identify. The leaves are light green and are somewhat wide. They sometimes have a purple tint to them. The bulb itself becomes wider the closer to the root you get.

The Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods is a great guide and you can find Ramps on page 128.

Ramp Recipes to Celebrate Ramp Season

As delicious as ramps are, they are equally nutritious. They are high in vitamin A and C. They also contain selenium and chromium. All of this nutritious goodness can reduce inflammation, improve digestion, fight heart disease, promote weight loss, and help fight cancer.

What can you do with ramps? Well, really anything but if you need some ideas then check out these delicious recipes.

Ramp Pesto

Ingredients

The Most Delicious Signs of Spring - Ramp Pesto

  • 2 bunches of ramps that have been cleaned and roots removed
  • ¾ cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steps

  1. Place ramps in food processor and pulse.
  2. Add olive oil until ramps are covered.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.
Pickled Ramps

Ingredients

Ramps The Most Delicious Signs of Spring - Pickled Ramps

  • 1 cup of white or red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon of coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 10 ounces of ramps that have been washed and trimmed

Steps

  1. The Most Delicious Signs of Spring - Pickled RampsCombine all ingredients but the ramps in a saucepan. To this pan, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, add ramps and bring the liquid back to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until ramps are tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
  2. If you are not going to eat the pickled ramps immediately, place them in a jar and store them in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Spanish-Style Ramps

Ingredients

  • 20 ramps cleaned and trimmed
  • 3 Tablespoons of olive oilRamps The Most Delicious Signs of Spring - Grilled Ramps

Steps

  1. Light your grill. While your grill is heating up, place your prepared ramps in a bowl and toss with olive oil.
  2. Place the ramps on the grill and cook for about a minute.
  3. Remove from the grill and wrap in paper to steam.

Related: Swamp Corndog That Tastes Like Meat (Video)

Annual Ramp Festivals

Now if you are looking for some fun beyond cooking with ramps then check out these celebrations that embrace the humble ramp:

Ramp Festival at Waynesville, North Carolina

This is an annual festival that while the date can change a bit according to the year, is normally held at the beginning of May. The festival itself has many activities, which include arts and crafts, live clogging, and raffles. What people show up for is the dinner showcasing ramps and the ramp eating contest. If ramps are not to your liking, do not worry. This festival also has more traditional foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs.

Elkins Ramp and Rails in Elkins, West Virginia

Looking for something a bit different then check out the Elkins Ramp and Rails event held in the latter part of April. While at the festival, you will learn more about the ramp along with enjoying dishes made with the spring onion. Like to take in more of the natural wonders, then jump on one of their hour-long train rides.

While you can find ramps at Farmer’s markets along with festivals, you may be interested in foraging your own but there is a problem. Foraging has become a very popular activity and while many plants recover quickly, ramp is not one of them. The clumping nature of ramps makes it very easy to overharvest when you pull up a bunch. So if you decide to take a stroll in the woods or your yard to see if you can find some ramps, here are just a few suggestions to protect the wild plants:

  • make sure what you are harvesting is a ramp.
  • do not pull up the whole bunch. The bulbs that are so delicious are also the ones that help the ramp plant reproduce. Yes, pulling up just a few can be a bit challenging but if you find that it is not possible, do not worry. You can simply take some of the bulbs and replant them back into the ground for future foragers.

What do I mean future? It takes several years for harvested clumps of ramps to recover. In doing so, please enjoy the outdoors and your foraging journey but do your part to protect the wild ramps by always living some behind after harvesting.

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23 Comments

  • Bobby Chester Posted March 21, 2022 8:39 AM

    Your wild onions don’t look like ours. Ours have leaves just like a garden onion and they made me very sick.

    • Pat Posted March 21, 2022 6:55 PM

      There are some inedible Alliums and lookalikes, however—some that can even make you very sick or even kill you. So before you eat wild plants, it’s important to educate yourself.

  • Linda Demercer Posted March 21, 2022 11:49 AM

    Are the leaves edible or just the bulbs?

    • june honeycutt Posted March 21, 2022 7:14 PM

      The leaves are edible also

      • Linda Demercer Posted March 22, 2022 8:56 AM

        Ty

  • Greg Baldwin Posted March 21, 2022 1:33 PM

    Here in the Mtns of NC we have a lot of ramps. I gather ramps every Spring. We make ramp salsa, pickled ramps, and even ramp jelly. And what I don’t use I transplant in the woods around the house. I have a nice patch of ramps at the house now!

    • Donnah Haisley Posted March 22, 2022 9:57 AM

      Hello Greg, could you post a pic and an up lose shot as well? I would love to see!

  • Dwight Herrington Posted March 21, 2022 3:37 PM

    Whats the difference between this book and the one i ordered last week the lost book of herbal remedies. I thought i bought all ur knowledge u had to sell n now ur selling more of ur knowledge in another book. Was u holdn out on me.lol

    • Rob Posted March 21, 2022 5:04 PM

      I got both of the books and they are not the same. One is for health remedies and the other is for edible items in the forest or by the roadside.

    • The Lost Herbs Posted March 21, 2022 5:17 PM

      Hi Dwight,

      Thank you for your interest in our work.
      The Forager’s Guide to Wild Foods is available both in digital and physical copy. It comes with 3 digital-only Bonuses: Wilderness Survival Guide, Healing Yourself at Home with Household Items, and 104 Lost Foods Items that Can Be Used for Survival.
      You can purchase the book using this link below:
      https://www.digistore24.com/redir/391224/globalbro/C02

      Many blessings and good health!

      • Mary Pollard Posted March 22, 2022 9:48 AM

        I bought both books but never received the three digital bonuses. Is there a way I can still get those?

      • The Lost Herbs Posted March 23, 2022 1:31 PM

        Hi Mary,

        Thank you for your interest in our work.
        Please check your personal email. I sent you you an email with the download links.

        Many blessings and good health!

  • Dwight Herrington Posted March 21, 2022 3:40 PM

    My green onions dont look like that in my yard they look exactly like my garden onion tops.

    • Paula Sayre Posted March 21, 2022 5:51 PM

      Ramps and what we call wild onions are different—wild onions do look like thin “garden” green onions, and they have tops similar to chives. If your milk cow gets into them in your pasture, you will know it! Oh, my…..! Ramps have a foliage more like a lilly-type plant, and, around here in West Virginia, they grow in the woods. However, we have transplanted some around the house and they seem to do fine. The article is good, but a little confusing as to what constitutes a wild onion. You can eat the thin green wild onions in your yard, and they really are quite good but strong! I never did develop a taste for ramps, though…….they stay with you for days! Hope this helps a little………

  • tony phillips Posted March 21, 2022 3:53 PM

    where can I purchase ‘the book of lost herbs please ?

    • The Lost Herbs Posted March 25, 2022 1:39 PM

      Hi Tony,

      Thank you for your interest in our work.
      You can find all our book collection in the store:
      https://thelostherbs.com/store/

      Many blessings and good health!

  • Starr Lambert Posted March 21, 2022 8:31 PM

    Ramps,eaten raw , will make you smell like string onion-like B-O. Although tasty, be prepared to stay away from people for a few days (mouthwash and deodorant don’t help)

  • Judy Johanson Posted March 21, 2022 8:56 PM

    They grow wild here where I live in Western NY on the PA border. Word of warning though best eat them on a Friday because your breath can smell for days. I have had them several ways – added into Spanish Rice instead of onions with leaves chopped up too. Also you can take a few and put into a blender with some sour cream and cream cheese to make a dip – or you can do a great job of cleaning them being sure to get rid of leaves/dirt and boil them up with ham – and have ham and leeks.

  • Rosamunde Gibbs Posted March 22, 2022 3:13 AM

    In England whole woodland floors can be covered with wild garlic and so pretty when they flower. I have 2 tiny clumps in my garden from a foraged plant. I leave the bulbs in the ground and just use leaves so they can spread.

  • Lee Litherland Posted March 22, 2022 12:58 PM

    will these grow in the midwest, we live on the ohio river by Owensboro, Ky. I don’t recall ever seeing them in this area.

  • AP Posted March 23, 2022 10:33 AM

    It’s great the author pointed out that ramps are easy to overharvest and advised people to leave some of them in the ground to grow back. An even more conservation-minded strategy I’ve seen many recommend is to only take one leaf per plant. The leaves have a taste much like the bulb, so the reproductive part doesn’t have to be removed to get the great ramps flavor. And the plants will grow back faster so you can enjoy a growing patch year after year.

  • elise Posted March 30, 2022 2:59 PM

    The Lost Herbs I went to college (long time ago hahah!) in Elkins W.Va and got to be around for the Ramp Festival…and other wonderful festivals! Living in the southwest for many years now, don’t think we have them here…only “spring onions” from the grocery. West Va. surely is beautiful!

  • Lee Litherland Posted April 1, 2022 3:22 PM

    since no one knows whether the ramps will grow in the midwest can I get someone to send me a start? Thanks. send me an email and I will forward my address and will be glad to pay for them.

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