If you’ve never heard of Ramps before, the chances that you’ve had them are pretty high if you are a restaurant go-er. This time of year restaurants go wild for this highly sought after foraged allium finding many inventive ways of including them into almost all dishes. With quarantine still in place, we have noticed that chefs are still figuring out ways of finding them and incorporating them into their home cooked meals.
So what makes them so sought after? As someone who has been foraging and cooking with ramps for some five plus years, i can tell you the flavor is incredible. Many compare ramps to leeks and even shallots but the truth is they don’t compare. Ramps have a very pungent aroma and flavor unlike leeks that are vastly mellower in flavor. Another reason is because of their short season. You gotta get em’ while you can sort of thing so of course chefs stock up as much as they can and use various methods of preservation (puree & freeze, pickle, dry) to keep ramps on the menu as long as possible.
This leads me to my next point, over harvesting. Sustainable harvesting is something i was very carefully taught in the earlier years of my career. Nature is “free” but in return we must be very careful and mindful not to disrupt the ecology in which we find our foraged food. Over harvesting ramps can and will lead to a scarce/dead patch. The key is to harvest for years and years to come instead of killing your found patch. Although i will NOT share the location of my ramp patch, i can tell you that i’ve been venturing there yearly for the past four years and the abundance has definitely multiplied thanks to proper harvesting practices. It is advised to pick off the leaves to allow the bulbs to regrow the following year but i personally love cooking with the bulbs. I treat myself to the bulbs but go back for just the leaves as well. You also always want to leave over two thirds of whats available in your patch. When the plant matures the leaves die off and the plant flowers. The flowers then drop new little seedlings for the next year.
If you’d like to attempt to try to find your own patch, first you must educate yourself on the ideal growing habitat of ramps. Ramps love slopes near wetlands (rivers & creeks in forests) because of the constant moisture and organic matter found in the soil. They begin to emerge before tree canopies form and die off by the time tree canopies fill in. They love cool and shady climates which is why you only find them in early to mid spring. The plant has two to three leaves and the stems tend to have a red-ish pigment.
We hope you find some time to venture into the woods and if you find some send us your pictures!