- What are ramps and how do I cook with them?
- Everything You Need to Know About Ramps
- Wild Leeks & Sustainable Harvesting
- Cropped: How to Grow Ramps
- The Bottom Line for Ramps
- What are Ramps and How Do I Use Them?
- Ramps: How to Forage & Eat Wild Leeks
- Storing & Preserving Ramps
- Cooking & Eating Ramps
- Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Ramps
- Ramps Season – Why We’re Wild about Ramps
- Uses For Ramps: How To Grow Wild Leek Ramps In The Garden
- What are Ramp Vegetables?
- Uses for Ramps
- How to Grow Wild Leek Ramps
- Finding and Growing Ramps
What are ramps and how do I cook with them?
It’s not a scallion, it’s not a leek, it’s not an onion … it’s a … ramp?!
Similar to the elusive truffle, the ramp (also called a wild leek or spring onion) carries with it an air of exclusivity that sends fans scrambling to their nearest farmers market around mid-spring, clamoring for a few stalks before season’s end. But why the frenzy around this humble crop? Much of the allure is due to its short season, resulting in limited quantities. And, like the aforementioned truffle, ramps are foraged from the wild, rather than farmed.
Procuring this pungent veggie is not easy, but if you can get it, the ramp makes an excellent ingredient in all sorts of dishes, from grilled meats to pesto to your morning eggs.
We’ve rounded up some suggestions to help you make the most of this coveted crop.
For simplicity’s sake, replace basil with ramps in your pesto recipe. But to ensure a bright green color in your pesto, you’ll want to separate the ramp’s white bulbs from the greens, then cook separately.
Bon Appetit offers a stunning pesto recipe with pasta and guanciale, which is salt-cured pork (you can also use pancetta or bacon).
Eggs with ramps
Epicurious keeps it simple and straightforward for a flavorful ramp breakfast: Chop a handful of whole ramps (bulbs and leaves) and cook them in butter before adding eggs. If you’re a Mediterranean food lover like we are, you can add spinach or another favorite leafy green, and call it green shakshuka.
Roasted ramps and potatoes
A great one-pan side dish or breakfast idea: Roast ramps and thinly sliced potatoes in salt, pepper and olive oil, until bulbs are golden and leaves are crisp, about 25 to 30 minutes.
The versatility of pizza is pretty much endless, so why not get a little adventurous with your toppings? Slice ramps lengthwise and sprinkle over your homemade pie, and bake until the cheese bubbles.
Substitute for onions
Use in basically any recipe where you’d normally add onions, leeks or scallions, like this casserole. But be careful: Ramps have a naturally pungent flavor, so you won’t need too many extra spices. Enjoy the aroma!
Everything You Need to Know About Ramps
Chef Samuel Kim of 1789 is in ramp heaven—and not just the annual euphoria/freak-out chefs experience when spring’s most prized ingredient arrives.
“I happened upon the mother load of ramps—probably three to 4,000 pounds of ramps” says Kim, who forages for the wild onions in fields around the city. “We call it Shangri-La right now.”
Kim is keeping mum about the location of this leek-filled nirvana, but is happy to divulge everything else about spring’s fleeting star—how to find ramps, pick them, buy them, store them, and most important, eat them.
So what’s the deal with ramps—why the freak out?
It happens every spring—chefs freak out, every menu has ramps. It’s like when you see the groundhog’s shadow. We’re so ready to get out of the winter doldrums, see green again, and burrow out of four months of root vegetables. Ramps are also a perfect combination of flavors—they’re pretty much a cross between an onion and garlic.
Is it easy to forage for ramps?
The beautiful thing about ramps is that they’re a wild onion—they grow wherever they want. If you’re willing to take a hike, it’s reliable you’ll walk into some ramps in the DC area. Unlike mushrooms, where there’re clones, there’s nothing that looks like a ramp, and they’re unique in terms of their appearance — two leaves and a red stem. Most times they’ll grow amongst a lot of trees. Not many animals eat it—most things with garlic pushes animals away—so when you happen upon it, the crops can be bountiful. Humans are really the ones that prize the ramp.
What’s the best way to pick ramps once you find them?
The number one rule is you never forage more than 50 percent of the field. You’re also not supposed to forage before the leaves are four inches in length. When you take the baby shoots, it can do harm to future populations of ramps. Your’e really looking for at least four inches on the leaves, and a little heft to the stem. If it’s a pencil-thin stem, someone who was foraging might have pulled ramps too early. You want to make sure you leave roots behind—it really depends on the weather, but we often go in with a trenching shovel, and you can feel as you’re cutting through the roots. You want to cut the root a centimeter or two underneath the bulb. The little bit of root you leave behind will regerminate, and get ready for the following spring.
How long is the season around Washington?
It really depends on the spring—usually about six to eight weeks. It all depends on how the weather cooperates. Warmth is conducive to a good season. They also love rain, so if you throw in some April showers with nice 60 to 70 degree weather, it’s perfect for them to thrive and flourish.
What’s a fair price to pay for ramps at the farmer’s market?
Your sweet spot is between $8 and $16. The price is usually at its peak at the beginning of the season—it starts out high, and as the weather starts to cooperate and foraging start to explode, then the price will drop. Once it starts getting too hot, the ramps start to die. Still ramps are nature’s gift—they’re free. The people who sell them, it costs them no money to grow. The only thing they put into it is their sweat.
What’s the best way to store ramps?
First, wash off the dirt and clean the roots. You want to get them in a little cold water. Then, lay them out flat to air-dry them, or towel them down. Water is your enemy—it’s the conductor for vegetables to deteriorate and rot. Put them into a container that has a lid on top. If you leave ramps exposed, the fridge pulls moisture away from the green tops, so they’ll get soft and wilt.
How many ramps should you buy for a single dish?
It depends on what you want to do with it. I have an entree with just two ramps. It’s so much flavor packed into such a small package, that if you put too much onto a plate, it blows out your palate. It’s all you’re able to taste. Less is more—you don’t need to give six or seven ramps on a plate.
How would you use the stems versus the leaves?
The greens are much more subtle, more onion-y with a hint of garlic. The bulb will have a garlicky flavor with a hint of onion. The greens are more delicate, whereas the stems are more robust—like a scallion. You could take the leaves and toss them into the salad. I’d be hesitant to do that with the bulb—they’d great pickled in a bloody Mary.
What’s your favorite simple preparation of ramps?
The simplest way is to put them in a skillet, sear them, hit them with salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. You can just enjoy the flavor that way. Personally speaking, I like to preserve them. The bottom stems we pickle, so we can have a ramp relish or hollandaise. The greens, we blanch, shock, and puree—you can add it to risotto, whatever you want. My personal favorite preparation is to make kimchi.
Who are the foragers who sell ramps to restaurants?
Its commonplace in springtime that the phone rings, and it’ll be a random guy in West Virginia with land, and he has ramps for sale. It’s not even a quality thing—it’s not like the person took care and raised the ramps. The only difference in quality is whether or not they waited long enough to forage. Sometimes you’ll see that a forager got impatient and wanted money, and they pulled the ramps too early. But it’s a free for all. You get calls from different states at different times—usually the Pacific Northwest first, then the DMV area, then later in Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. Those are the guys I use in late May to early June.
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Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.
The first time I visited Michael Stadtlander at Eigensinn Farm near Collingwood, his 100-acre property was blanketed in snow. And yet the great chef was already talking about the wild leeks, also called ramps, that would soon be rising up through the forest floor. “I don’t wait for the snow to melt,” he said excitedly. “I know where they are, and push the snow aside.”
Unlike most Canadians, Mr. Stadtlander actually hopes for a slow, late thaw – if the leeks grow too quickly, they can get bulby and fibrous.
Wild leeks are literally Ontario’s first taste of spring – they are the first edible shoots to appear in April and early May, long before local asparagus growers are even thinking about harvesting their spears. Which is one reason why people get so excited about this obscure allium. “It’s the renewal of life after a long winter,” Mr. Stadtlander explained.
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True to their name, wild leeks are not nearly as tame as their domesticated cousins, garlic and onion. They are pungent and grassy, and demand a starring role on the plate. The young green leaves can be used to wrap fish, the shoots sautéed with lamb. With age, their herbal taste grows more pronounced. The diehards, such as Adam Colquhoun of Oyster Boy, eat them raw, straight from the ground. “I’m an addict,” he explains.
Tomorrow, a dozen of Ontario’s best chefs and about 200 guests will descend on Eigensinn for Mr. Stadtlander’s annual wild-leek festival, held outdoors in the maple forests where the ramps grow. (The sold-out event raises money for two women’s shelters.) Each chef will set up bush stations to showcase the versatility of the wild leek – braised with pork neck, say, or pounded into an anchovy butter.
Days before the event, Canoe’s Anthony Walsh went on a foraging expedition near Blue Mountain. “This is the best time of year for foodies,” he enthused. Mr. Walsh will process hundreds of pounds at his restaurants this month to ensure a steady supply of the allium through the year. They are one of the last truly seasonal vegetables – nobody in Peru or Chile has thought of trying to grow them in January.
Nathan Isberg of Czehoski was agonizing over what to cook. (This is his debut as a chef at Eigensinn.) He had some chestnut-flour vol-au-vent in the freezer, and initially he thought about sourcing some of last year’s preserved elderberries from Forbes Wild Foods. “The temptation is to do something fancy,” the 31-year-old chef said, “but then Claudio will be there.” He was referring to Claudio Aprile of Colborne Lane, who is known for his pyrotechnics (think liquid nitrogen) in the kitchen. He finally settled on “something more rustic,” a humble chicken sandwich, made with Mr. Stadtlander’s own birds.
Because wild leeks take two years to mature, harvesting must be done carefully so they aren’t picked out of existence – a real danger in Quebec, where their culinary qualities are held in higher esteem. In 1995, they earned the dubious honour of becoming the first officially “vulnerable” species in that province.
“They raped them. Kind of like what I’m doing here,” teases Mr. Stadtlander, shrugging his broad shoulders. “But seriously, you have to take them here and take them there so they don’t disappear.” Mr. Stadtlander practises “wildcrafting,” carefully dividing bulbs and replanting them to ensure their survival.
“Eigensinn is my own little world – I’ve got to make sure it stays at least as beautiful as when I arrived.”
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Toronto ramps up
Though jars of pickled wild leeks are a permanent decoration at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, most restaurants feature the stinking lily only briefly as a special.
Throughout May, you can find bunches of fresh wild leeks at farmers’ markets around the city. Look for them at the St. Lawrence Farmers’ Market in the South Building on Saturdays, or at the opening of Riverdale Farmers’ Market this Tuesday, May 9, from 3 p.m. onward.
Upscale grocers, such as Whole Foods and Harvest Wagon, also carry them.
Wild Leeks & Sustainable Harvesting
Wild Leeks – Ramps – Allium tricoccum
Wild Leeks are one of the first plants to come up in the spring. Often found in maple and mixed-wood forests, they are widely considered a delicacy. Their amazing flavour and popularity comes at a great cost: over-harvesting is a serious problem and over the years they have suffered significant habitat loss. Because of this, it is important to take care when harvesting, and only remove a maximum of 5% of a patch of leeks per year, or better yet every couple years, rotating the area you harvest from and keeping to private or properly managed land. Taking more than 5% will hamper the ability of the patch to regenerate itself. Harvesting on public or shared high-traffic land, where other people may pick, can quickly lead to a total loss of the lovely spring allium. Even when wild leeks appear abundant, carpeting the floor of the forest floor they can be at risk. Often the loss of wild leeks appears abrupt. Their life cycle is roughly seven years, from when a seed sprouts to when the plant can produce its own seed. In addition, it can take two years for seeds to generate, making the life cycle of wild leeks nearly a decade long.
Wild leeks – Photo by Dyson Forbes
Also known as ‘ramps’, or ‘ail des bois’, Wild Leeks have a strong flavour similar to an onion or strong garlic. They are edible either raw or cooked, and the bulbs and the leaves are both delicious. While Douglas Adams defines the word Chicago as “a foul smelling wind following a subway”, the word actually stems from the Algonquin word shikaakwa that refers to the pungent early spring treat.
Dyson picking ramps – Photo by Jonathan Forbes
It might seem odd that we sell wild leeks while speaking at length about protecting them, but we believe that through community efforts and a proper understanding of the plant it is possible to harvest in an ethical and progressive way that helps to ensure the survival of the plant. The vast majority of the leeks we sell come from the Beausoleil First Nations who rotate their harvesting area on Christian Island every year to ensure that the leeks will continue to grow year after year. A small portion of our leeks come from places where we have reintroduced them and from a progressive Mennonite farm that also produces birch and maple syrup. More than any other wild food, the harvesting and sale of wild leeks comes with many challenges and it is extremely important that it is done properly. We are always open to discussing our managed harvests.
Wild Leek Bulbs – Photo by Dyson Forbes
Try making a pesto by blending the leaves with olive oil, pine nuts (or black walnuts), and Parmesan cheese. Alternatively you could use the bulbs as the garlic component to a more traditional pesto with basil, black walnuts, and Parmesan cheese. Roast the bulbs, or freeze for later use in soups or stir fry. Dry the leaves and use as a spice, or purée them and freeze for later use. Pickled wild leeks. For quick caramelized wild leeks, sauté leeks in butter with a pinch of baking powder and salt at a low temperature for ten minutes.
Wild leek seeds – Photo by Jonathan Forbes
It is not enough that we try to inform people about responsible, sustainable harvesting methods. Many people assume the rules don’t apply to them. After 5 years of bulb and seed spreading, you will get a greater dispersion on plants than with just bulb planting, and older plants may start to produce seeds that can be spread further. You can help the leeks along by spreading the seed around to increase the amount of clumps around you. After about 7-10 years you can start harvesting in small amounts, using progressive methods to ensure long term survival for the plant and other local wildlife.
We seed-and-bulb spread leeks and introduce them to new forests or places that they are being lost or disappearing quickly. We also work closely with first nations communities to create harvesting plans and systems, so that the wild leeks are not threatened. We also work with the media to push the idea that a 5% harvest only works on private land and that picking 5% on public or crown land can lead to overlapping foragers taking more then is sustainable and the loss of wild leeks in that area.
How to ship and sell wild leeks
Wild leeks need a little bit of special care when being processed. Customers expect a clean, full leek with the root intact and a solid green leaf. Spraying down the roots with water helps maintain freshness as well as removes unwanted dirt, wild leeks picked from sandy soil are much easier to clean than from clay soil. Wild leeks do not have a long shelf life, once removed from the ground and cleaned they will begin to wilt.
After cleaning, place wild leeks bulb down in a kitchen waste bag that has holes or perforations cut into the bottom (this allows air to flow and water to drain). Each bag should hold roughly 8 lbs. packing them too tightly will cause leaf to become damaged and reduce shelf life.
How to protect wild leeks
1. Speak up about how the harvest of wild leeks should be a licensed and protected harvest. We strongly believe that the sale of wild leeks should be regulated so that the abundance, use and practices used for harvesting wild leeks can be properly managed and collectively we ensure the long term survivability of this special food.
2. Purchase wild leeks from a reputable source that is open about where the leeks come from, who is picking and what they do to ensure their harvest is sustainable. Never be afraid to ask detailed questions about the source of your food.
3. Avoid sources that just rip wild leeks from the ground. Often there will be trout lilly and other plants mixed in with your leeks.
4. Don’t eat too many. Wild leeks are special so treat yourself but don’t go wild.
5. If you pick wild leeks, return to where you picked them to spread seed and break up clumps to speed up their ability to spread.
For more information about wild leeks and any other of our sustainably-sources products, contact us today at Forbes Wild Foods.
Cropped: How to Grow Ramps
With a sweet pungency that combines the flavors of garlic, scallions, and leeks, ramps (Allium tricoccum) have become something of a rare delicacy as rising demand depletes the natural supply. Unfortunately, harvesting the bulbs – which grow wild in forests from Minnesota to Maine and as far south as Georgia – effectively kills the plants. Even worse, this particular plant can take seven years to reach maturity. It’s why Great Smoky Mountains National Park banned ramp-foraging in 2004, and why horticultural scientists at North Carolina State University have been researching how farmers might help ensure a robust ramp population.
A good portion of the land in the eastern United States is forested and thus too shady for conventional crops – yet ideal for ramps. True, you won’t be able to reap what you sow for five to seven years (three, if you plant bulblets instead of seeds), but you’ll be using otherwise fallow acreage to produce a crop that brings in about $15 a pound.
Though officially hardy in Zones 3 to 7, ramps require a specific woodland habitat: shady and damp (at least 35 inches of rainfall throughout the year), with well-drained, acidic, calcium-rich soil. These same conditions are favored by trilliums, trout lilies, and mayapples, so if you notice an area where those plants thrive (likely under the shade of beeches, maples, hickories, or oaks), you’ve found the perfect place to cultivate ramps.
Sow seeds in early fall, spacing them 4 to 6 inches apart and pressing them into the soil with the palm of your hand. Or speed up the process by planting bulblets, 2 to 3 inches deep, in early spring, just after the ground has thawed. Either way, mulch with a 2-inch layer of hardwood tree leaves, and use overhead irrigation during dry spells.
Ramps should be harvested in spring, five to seven years after planting seeds and three to five years after planting bulblets. You’ll know the plants are mature when their leaves reach heights of 6 to 8 inches.
Gently dig up a clump, removing some bulbs but leaving others intact. Replant the roots, the remaining bulbs, and any small bulblets for the next generation. Once the plants begin to flower, collect the seeds in late summer and plant them in suitable spots nearby. (Over time, ramps put out rhizomes and roots laterally and propagate by themselves.)
It’s also worth noting that there’s a market for the mildly flavored leaves, which can be harvested at 5 to 6 inches tall, three to five years after planting seeds and at least two after planting bulblets. Simply pinch or snip the leaves off just above the soil line.
The Bottom Line for Ramps
There’s limited data, as few growers had the foresight to get started a decade ago. But ramps could be profitable for farmers willing to play the long game.
- Number of plants per 1â„10 acre: 10,000
- Bulk cost for seeds: $35”“$45 per ounce (about 1,500 seeds)
- Bulk cost for bulblets: $250 per 1,000
- Years until bulbs mature from seed: 5”“7
- Years until bulbs mature from bulblets: 3”“5
- Price per pound harvested bulbs: About $15
- Price per pound harvested leaves: About $12
- Annual gross revenue per 1â„10 acre (after 3 to 7 years): $1,500 to $2,000
Buy seeds year-round and bulblets in late winter at rampfarm.com and mountaingardensherbs.com. For more information, consult Having Your Ramps and Eating Them Too by Glen Facemire Jr. Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals by W. Scott Person and Jeanine Davis is another great resource.
What are Ramps and How Do I Use Them?
Photo: Getty Images
What’s that weird thing at the farmer’s market that looks vaguely like a scallion but sports prettier, tender, more vase-worthy greens? That’s the ramp, a wild onion whose limited growing season and delightful taste have caused a boom in popularity in recent years.
Ramp season varies wildly, from a mere two weeks to about six weeks, typically starting in March or April, and they’re among the first things to go at the farmer’s market. If you spy them—they’re often labeled “wild leeks” or “wild ramps”— select those with bright-green leaves, and know that you can eat the whole bunch (after you trim off roots and the very bottom of the stems). Brace for a flavor slightly more pronounced than a leek, scallion, or onion, but less so than garlic—and somehow reminiscent of all four. Ramps can be mightily pungent, depending on where in America they grow, and they can be pricey due to their abridged season and the clamor for them.
Easy never tasted so awesome.
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Ramps are particularly popular in classic French, Italian, and New American preparations, but can also be used in Asian dishes. Eat them sliced thin and raw on top of rice bowls and salads or sauté them in butter or olive oil and fold them into potato salad with bacon, omelets, skillet-seared chicken dishes, or tagliatelle with cream. Spin them into pesto, toss them on to a pizza, or turn them into a wild jam. You can even broil them, as chef Hugh Acheson did for these knockout nachos.
Watch: How to Make Creamy Spring Pasta
Cooks will often call for sautéing the stems first, then adding the greens a few minutes later, similar to cooking chard, but depending on your taste for stems, sliced thinly enough, they can often go right into a pan with the greens.
The ramp is among the first signs of spring, and marks the move from the ugly but delicious veggies of winter to the tender spring cooking season. And if you want to preserve their life the whole year-round, no problem: Just pickle them!
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel & Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.
Ramps: How to Forage & Eat Wild Leeks
And once a good patch is established, it supposedly requires little maintenance. Jeanine recommends the book Having Your Ramps and Eating Them Too by the “Johnny Appleseed of Ramps” for more info on cultivating ramps.
Storing & Preserving Ramps
Ramps are only in season for a month or so, but, for us, getting them is only half the problem. I usually come back from a good ramping trip with several pounds: enough for us to eat fresh before they go bad with a little extra to keep for eating later (I rarely go digging more than once a season unless I come home with a particularly light harvest).
Both leaves and bulbs can be eaten and both are delicious. They’re best used fresh, but both can be put away for eating later in the year.
The easiest way to store ramp bulbs is by freezing: Simply cut off the greens, clean the dirt off the bulbs and cut off the roots (if your ramps still have roots). Then spread the bulbs out on a sheet pan or waxed paper so they are not touching and freeze. This prevents them from sticking together.
Once they’re frozen, put them in jars or plastic containers, seal tightly and put in the freezer for up to six months. You can also wrap them individually in wax paper and store frozen in sealed jars. They can also be pickled but we don’t usually bother.
The greens won’t last long fresh and deteriorate when frozen. They can be dried, but they lose a lot of their flavor. We’ve found the best way to preserve them is by making ramp compound butter (see recipe below). A close second is ramp pesto. Either can be stored in the refrigerator in the short term or frozen for use later.
For short term storage put ramps in the refrigerator as soon as possible. They should be stored uncleaned. If a refrigerator is not immediately available ramps can be kept with the bulbs submerged in a bucket of water and placed in a cool shaded area.
The leaves will start to wilt in the refrigerator after 4 days or so and in the bucket after a day or so depending on temperature.
Cooking & Eating Ramps
Ramp bulbs and leaves can be diced and used just as you would use onions, green onions, leeks, chives and garlic, but they are much more potent. They pair well with the following:
chanterelles and other wild mushrooms
stir fried and raw greens
Some folks like to eat ramps raw. I like a little chopped up in a salad, but ramps as a cooked vegetable are a lot more fun. My favorite way to eat them is mixed into venison burgers or in ramp and white cheddar soup. And it’s hard to beat ramps and eggs for breakfast.
Mom & Ramps Forever! A few years back, Cindy came across this sweet little book from West Virginia called Mom & Ramps Forever! by Barbara Beury McCallum. There’s some fun anecdotal history on ramps in there. It’s also a collection of old timey recipes and stand-bys like pickled ramps and ramp champ – mashed potatoes with ramps. Here’s one of the recipes… quick and easy and sounds tasty:
Ramps With Watercress
“Fry some bacon until crisp, remove the bacon then drain off part of the bacon drippings. Put washed cress into the pan with the water that clings to it. Cook covered, until tender. Garnish with crumpled bacon, finely chopped ramps, and some chopped hard cooked eggs.”
Unfortunately, Mom & Ramps Forever! is out of print, but it’s a nice one for the collection if you can find it.
Ramps (also known as wild leeks) pack garlicky, green flavor that turns full and mellow with cooking. With their stringy roots, thin stems, and green tops, they look like green onions, but only at first. A ramp’s leaves are flat, and the stem has a purple streak running up the side.
If you like garlic, you’ll love ramps—cooking the green tops, stems, and bulbs of this oniony vegetable is a delicious way to celebrate spring’s arrival.
How to Buy
Ramps have a small window of availability. The season lasts only from March until June, so when you see them, grab them. There’s a much better chance of finding ramps at farmers’ markets than at the supermarket. Look for firm stems, bright green leaves, and roots that show no signs of rotting.
How to Use
Before cooking, slip off the thin outer layer of skin from the stem and then cut off the root end. And don’t forget to rinse: Submerge ramps in cool water and swish them around thoroughly to remove grit.
How to Store
As long as they’re sealed tightly in plastic and stored in the refrigerator—with root ends swathed in damp paper towels—ramps will keep for three or four days.
Ramps are a good source of iron and vitamins A and C. Like garlic, onions, and other members of
the group known as Alliums, ramps contain
sulfur compounds that appear to be impressively healthful. Eating ramps may help lower your risk of cardiovascular
disease, as well as certain kinds of
cancer, and is also thought to help stabilize
5 More to Try
- Grill whole ramps that have been brushed with olive oil until soft and charred.
- Simmer whole ramps in boiling water until soft; pat dry, cool, and drizzle with a hazelnut
- Chop ramps, sauté in butter, and add to an omelet or frittata with goat cheese and chopped parsley.
- Puree cooked chopped ramps with boiled potatoes and chicken broth for a new take on potato-leek soup.
- Stir-fry chopped ramps with sesame oil, ginger, and soy sauce; sprinkle toasted sesame
Ramps ( Wild Leek ) Seeds
Useful gardening information
As one of the first plants to emerge in the spring, ramps were traditionally consumed as the season’s first “greens”. They were considered a tonic because they provided necessary vitamins and minerals following long winter months without any fresh vegetables. Traditions evolved around the annual gathering and preparation of this pungent plant. Throughout the mountains of the eastern U.S., including many western North Carolina counties, annual spring ramps festivals are held.
Ramps grow naturally under a forest canopy of beech, birch, sugar maple, and/or poplar. Other forest trees under which ramps will grow include buckeye, linden (basswood), hickory, and oak. A forested area with any of these trees present provides an ideal location for planting a ramp crop. Areas that host trillium, toothwort, nettle, black cohosh, ginseng, bloodroot, trout lily, bellwort, and mayapple should be suitable for growing ramps. If there is not a wooded area available to grow ramps, a shade structure can be erected over the planting site.
Hardy for zones 3-8.
Here is an excellent webapge about How to Forage and Eat Wild Leeks that has a lot of useful information.
Image: Prairie Moon Nursery NB69 Ramps, Wild Leeks ( Allium tricoccum ) Very hard seeds to come by! We can only offer small starter packs, but these plants will multiply quickly over a few seasons if allowed to do so, we recommend you should start your batch now!
( Allium tricoccum )Considered by many to be the best tasting member of the onion family. The leaves are are very tender early in the Spring and the bulb is edible year round, though they can toughen up in the summer.
Broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems begin arriving in small troops as soon as the snow disappears.
IP355 Ramsons, Wild Garlic, Bear Garlic ( Allium ursinum ) Ramsons (Allium ursinum), also known as wild garlic, is a wild relative of chives native to Europe and Asia. Ramsons grow in deciduous woodlands with moist soils, preferring slightly acidic conditions. They flower before deciduous trees leaf in the spring, filling the air with their characteristic garlic-like scent.
The stem is triangular in shape and the leaves are similar to those of the lily of the valley. Unlike the related crow garlic and field garlic, the flower-head contains no bulbils, only flowers. Ramsons leaves are edible; they can be used as salad, spice, boiled as a vegetable, in soup, or as an ingredient for pesto in lieu of basil.
The stems are preserved by salting and eaten as a salad in Russia. The bulbs and flowers are also very tasty. Ramsons leaves are also used as fodder. Cows that have fed on ramsons give milk that tastes slightly of garlic, and butter made from this milk used to be very popular in 19th century Switzerland.
This native garlic grows to be about 18″ tall and boasts gorgeous white blooms. Wild Garlic is extremely easy to grow and thrives in almost any sun and soil type, making it a versatile choice for any meadow or garden. Allium ursinum attracts bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, but its strong onion scent makes it unappealing to deer and rabbits.
Easily grown in rich, moist but well-drained loams in full sun to part shade. This is a woodland plant that is more tolerant of part shade conditions than most members of the genus. Add sand to clay soils as needed to improve drainage. This species spreads invasively by rhizomes and self-seeding, and over time can carpet large areas.
Zone: 5 to 9.
Note: These seeds need to be cold stratified before sowing. We recommend using the Seedman’s Cold Stratification Kits for cold stratification.
W233 Chinese Leeks ( Allium tuberosum rottler ) The Chinese Leek, also known as Chinese Chive, has a long history in Chinese and Japanese kitchens as well as the medicine cabinet. Has a delicate garlic-chive flavor. The leaves can be prepared in stir-fries, egg dishes, meat or fish dishes, or even by themselves. The Japanese make a tempura snack by tying the leaves into a bundle, dipping them in batter, and deep-frying them. The pretty, star-like white flowers make this herb an attractive addition to the garden. If they’re not being used in a vase on the table, the flowers and flower buds can be part of your meal. The flowering stems retain their color when cooked and can be steamed as you might prepare asparagus. Flower buds are tasty in a salad, dressed with a little oil. In Asia, the flowers are sometimes ground into a spice.
This variety grows large broad leaves with long stems. Plants are very vigorous in warm climates and can be harvested many times per season. Young large leaves are very tender and delicious, widely used in various Oriental cooking. This unique variety is also very good for blanching plants in totally dark (not exposed to light at all) environments, to grow the delicate yellow Chinese Leek, also called “Joe Huang” in Chinese.
Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Ramps
Spring has sprung, and that means ramp season is officially in full swing. You know, ramps: those cute, terribly en vogue little vegetables with the slightly unappealing name, that appear on every hip restaurateur’s menu, and whose very presence has been known to incite riots at farmers’ markets. But what exactly are these little green wonders?
What are ramps?
A good way to define ramps might be to describe the negative space, i.e. what ramps aren’t. Ramps are not leeks, nor are they scallions, nor are they exactly shallots. Ramps (which are sometimes called wild leeks or spring onions, adding to the confusion) look like scallions, but they’re smaller and slightly more delicate, and have one or two flat, broad leaves. They taste stronger than a leek, which generally has a mild onion flavor, and are more pungently garlicky than a scallion.
Why do chefs and cooks freak out about ramps?
Unclear. But they definitely do. If one had to wager a guess as to their popularity, it’s because ramp season is short, and hence quantities are limited. They’re typically foraged, like truffles, giving them an air of adventure. They’re also one of the first vegetables to emerge from the defrosting soil after a long winter; waiting for the first ramps of the season has the anticipatory excitement of waiting for Punxsutawney Phil to look for his shadow. Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin told AP, “It’s like that elusive thing — the bad boyfriend, the jazzy car of the vegetable world.”
Cedar Summit Farm/Flickr
How much do ramps cost?
A pound of ramps can run you $20 per pound, or $5 for a small bunch, though that price could go down as the ramp crop is expected to be larger than normal this year.
Should I freak about ramps?
As with all things, in moderation. There are consequences to the seasonal ramp-age, namely overharvesting. Wild foods advocate Russ Cohenhas decried the mania, saying sustainable harvesting is necessary, lest long-term ecological damage be done. He recommends plucking leaves off of the tender plants and leaving the bulbs intact so that they can reproduce for future years.
So sure, freak in a controlled manner. Ramps are the gorgeous, perfect little cousin of the onion: delicious when fried in bacon grease, prepared with eggs, or delicately pickled. Ramps are so beloved in Appalachia that there was an actual King of Ramps, whose real name was Bato Crites.
Where can I get my hands on some ramps?
Check your local farmers’ market. Otherwise, you might luck out at Whole Foods or produce markets. If all else fails, you can drop $162 for a five-pound box and have them overnighted to you.
Ramps Season – Why We’re Wild about Ramps
Ramps have become a darling of the Spring vegetable world, with farmers markets ablaze in consumers and chefs vying for the garlicky, pungent flavor. In short, they’re delicious if food instagrammers and chefs are to be believed. This green onion/leek relative is also known scientifically as allium tricoccum, and their growth spans from Appalachia all the way up to Quebec.
Every season, chefs have an opportunity to expand their menu in unique and delicious ways, and season for this vegetable often runs short.
To us, this means that ramps can lend their flavor to a wide variety of foods, much like their allium counterparts. But why are they so special?
Short Season, Picky Growth
Did you know that there is a black market for ramps?
Ramps are not cultivated, but are harvested wild. Much like morels and other foraged foods, this means that there are limits to availability. To maintain ramps year after year, only about 10% of wild ramps can be harvested to ensure a steady supply of this wild crop. Because they’re foraged, the labor involved in harvesting ramps also drives up their prices.
Farmers Markets in areas that sell them are often bursting at the seams, specifically in demand for this elusive vegetable. Quebec, as an example, has banned the commercial sale of ramps due to conservation concerns. In fact, if you’re caught with more than 5 bulbs, you may get slapped with a $500 fine!
Many chefs find satisfaction across the border into Ontario, through poachers. They’re not harvested illegally. It is not criminalized within the borders of Ontario. In fact, they’re just as wild about this crop as anyone else!
As you can see, they’ve become a hot commodity.
How to Prepare and Shop for Ramps
When you’re receiving ramps, the greens should be dark green, with no translucency and in good condition. That stalk should be thinner, as thicker ramps tend to taste woodier. The entire ramp should range from 10-14” in length.
Ramps are known for being pickled –which only serves to extend the Spring bounty– but as they’ve grown in popularity, other cooking methods have now been employed this vegetable onto center stage. You can easily roast or grill them, they’re a delight in pesto, or as a replacement for garlic.
Just make sure you clean them well…
Common Mistakes with Ramps
Cleaning Ramps – Many people think leeks are the kings of holding dirt, but we assure you, the ramp gives the leek some stiff competition. Clean them gently before storage, as the leaves are delicate.
Treat them gently – They’re delicate and full of beautiful flavor compounds that will degrade more quickly at room temperature. Wrap them gently in paper towels and store in a plastic container, or unsealed plastic bags.
Not only do we specialize in excellent fish, but we offer loads of epicurean goods and specialty meats, for your fine dining restaurant! Learn more about us and our products here.
Uses For Ramps: How To Grow Wild Leek Ramps In The Garden
Ever heard of a ramp? What are ramp vegetables? That answers part of the question, but there is so much more to unearth about ramp vegetable plants like uses for ramps and how to grow wild leek ramps.
What are Ramp Vegetables?
Ramp vegetable plants (Allium tricoccum) are native to the Appalachian Mountains, north into Canada, west into Missouri and Minnesota and south to North Carolina and Tennessee. Growing ramps are commonly found in groups in rich, moist deciduous forests. A cousin of the onion, leek, and garlic plant, the ramp is also a pungent vegetable that is enjoying resurgence in popularity.
Ramps have been traditionally foraged rather than cultivated and are easily identified by their leaves, usually two broad, flat leaves are produced from each bulb. They are light, silvery green, 1-2 ½ inches wide and 5-10 inches long. A spring bloomer, the leaves wither and die by June and a small, cluster of white flowers is produced.
There is some disparity regarding the genesis of the name. Some folks say the name “ramp” is a shortened version for Aries the Ram, the zodiac sign for April and the month that growing ramps begin to appear. Others say “ramp” is derived from a similar English plant called “ransom” (Allium ursinus), which was previously called “ramson.”
Uses for Ramps
Ramps are harvested for their bulbs and leaves which taste like spring onions with a garlicky aroma. Back in the day, they were usually fried in butter of animal fat with eggs and potatoes or added to soups and pancakes. Both early colonists and American Indians prized ramps. They were an important early spring food source after months of no fresh vegetables and were considered a “tonic.” Ramps can also be pickled or dried for later use. Today, they are found sautéed in butter or olive oil in fine dining establishments.
Ramps and their relatives have been used medicinally to treat a host of ailments, and one of these old-time remedies has crossed over into the world of modern medicine. One of the most common uses of both garlic and ramps was to expel internal worms, and a concentrated form is now produced commercially. It’s called allicin, which comes from the scientific name Allium, the group name for all onions, garlic, and ramps.
How to Grow Wild Leek Ramps
As mentioned, ramps are usually foraged, not cultivated — that is until fairly recently. Ramps can be found at many farmers markets grown by local farmers. This may be where some people have been introduced to them. This is creating a market for more ramps which, in turn, is causing more farmers to begin cultivating them, and exciting many a home gardener.
So how do you grow wild ramps? Keep in mind that they naturally grow in a shaded area with rich, moist, well-draining soil high in organic matter. Think damp forest floor. They can be grown from seed or via transplants.
Seeds can be sown at any time the soil isn’t frozen with late summer to early fall the prime time. Seeds need a warm, moist period to break dormancy followed by a cold period. If there is not sufficient warming after sowing, the seeds will not germinate until the second spring. So, germination can take anywhere from six to 18 months. No one said this was gonna be easy.
Be sure to incorporate plenty of organic matter found in a decaying forest soil, such as composted leaves or decaying plants. Remove weeds, loosen the soil and rake to prepare a fine seed bed. Thinly sow the seeds on top of the ground and press them gently into the soil. Water and cover the ramp seeds with several inches of leaves to retain moisture.
If you are growing ramps using transplanting, plant bulbs in February or March. Set bulbs 3 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart. Water and mulch the bed with 2-3 inches of composted leaves.
Finding and Growing Ramps
40 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post
OMG – I recognize those plants, we do have them here in wisconsin! Dang, I am gonna have to waddle my prego butt out to the woods and find me some! Good going girly -your a farm gal for sure.
I don’t think we have ramps here in Oklahoma. However, the poke salit (or salad) is growing quite nicely now. We don’t have enough to bother with cooking a mess – so will just enjoy looking at it.
Amelia in Oklahoma
Chickens and ramps…What’s next for you?
It’s so amazing that you don’t spend your days sitting at a desk, in front of a computer monitor. Okay, you do when you are posting and book-writing. LOL. I meant the day-to-day grind kind of thing, in an office.
I need a lotto win!
Happy Friday to all. My dad is flying in from Vancouver, BC tonight, for a week; should be fun!
-Kim (in Kingston, ON)
Unfortunately your neighbors right, County just doesn’t have alot of Ramps. But they are out there as you have see, so good luck growing your own. :thumbsup:
I have never dug ramps. But I used to help dig yellow root, mayapple and ginseng. Those were fun times. Except when I dug up a nest of snakes. 😮
I remain incredibly impressed. :clap:
Amelia is right, we do not have Ramps in Oklahoma, but we do have wild onions…looks a lot like a small onion you plant in your garden but more pungent. Same concept as a Ramp. My mom was just like you, crazy about them and out hunting them and again, just like your post a few days ago, the first thing she would do is make scrambled eggs and wild onions. I seriously did not appreciate her effort because to me it was just like a regular o’l green onion… we also use to look for wild mushrooms …now those were good. I have not seen one in years…I use to think it was soooo boring as a kid walking the creeks looking for these things…and as a mom does, she tried to make it fun by telling me “it is just like hunting for Easter Eggs”….that never really worked for me…but I had fun once I got there. Do you have wild sand plums? sand plum jelly is the BEST!
Tresh in Oklahoma
I’ve never heard of ramps, so I don’t know if we have them here in Illinois or not. What we all start hunting for this time of year is the elusive morel mushroom. Those are what I crave all year long and spend hours tromping through the woods for!
I love your blog! It’s the first one I read every morning when I get to (work?) :clap: I don’t live in the country but I wish I could raise chickens. They’re precious!
I love the concept of foraged food. I don’t know exactly what Michigan has (I’m not native) but I hope to go Morel Mushroom hunting in the next couple of weeks.
Also, with all the farm activity, when do you find time to write?
Love your blog!
I’m from Michigan and we find wild leeks when hunting for morel mushrooms. Will be hunting next weekend for both! Thanks for sharing!
I’m such a city girl. I’m amazed by all you’ve accomplished out there!
I don’t think we have ramps here in Arkansas either. Maybe in the hills or mountains, but not here in the flats. I’ve been reading about ramps on some of the food blogs, and would like to try them.
We have a farmer’s market on campus starting tomorrow. I’m thinking about coming out to see if they have ramps or morels. I’d love to try both.
We do have wild onions, but I spend too much time digging them out of my lawn to ever think about cooking with them. But then times are getting tough, I may learn to cook a lot of things I haven’t before.
I’ve never seen them here in the midwest…but it doesn’t mean we don’t have them… Hope yours take hold and spread!
sweet lord woman, you’re after my heart! first chickens, now ramps? good thing you’re a gal or my own dear hubby would be looking for me, wondering where the heck had i gone. not to fear, i won’t just show up on your pie porch. dh is looking for a mountain home for me. we actually stopped to look at chickens together. 52 isn’t the only sweety you know.
I have a friend who gets a bunch of ramps when she comes home and sells them in NYC for some ungodly amount of money. No ramps in NYC. Go figure!
I want ramps! I am going to have to find some seeds/starts and plant my own. The leaves themselves are beautiful and will work wonderfully in my garden (one year, I planted chick peas for this very reason)….well, until I pull them up to eat them, that is.
I’ve never even heard of these. That is so neat!
Oh boy. My husband loves ramps. I do too, but I’m more careful about eating them than he is. Why? Because they will make you smell like a ton of smashed garlic for several days after you eat them! I’ve heard stories about kids who ate them and got sent home from school because of the smell, about the West Virginia Hillbilly (a classic newspaper now defunct) using ramp juice in their ink so peoplewould know how they smell, and almost getting sued by the US Post Office, and many more such tales.
They are delicious, and are a new favorite ingredient of gourmet chefs in big cities. Here they grow wild for the digging. BUT you better know how to cook them. Raw is potent and deadly to friends and enemies both. Suzanne, you’ve got the red ramps and they’re the strongest. The white ones are milder. I like to parboil them and then add them to fried potatoes. They’re delicious that way and a lot of the smell is lost in the parboil stage.
You can freeze them, too, but be sure to triple bag or more, or everything in your freezer smells like ramps.
Oh, they don’t grow in most of Jackson County, either, and my hubby looks down his nose at transplanted ramps–he swears they’re not as strong. I doubt there is any difference at all except in his mind. He goes to the Williams River country to dig them, although there are plenty closer than that. He just loves that country, and it’s a good excuse to go there.
Wow! They sound delicious and well worth the trouble, Suzanne – good luck! Granny Sue, you info was great too.
I wonder if they grow in Connecticut…I’ll have to find out!
I don’t think we have ramps in Oregon.
Reminds me of when I was a kid. My grandmother would go to Williams River and dig ramps. We went to vist nearly every Sunday. When we pulled in the drive and got out of the car, we could tell she had been ramp digging the day before.
The aroma would be all over. She too fried them with potatoes and then added eggs.
I think she must have found the red ones. Ewww wee!!
They sound realy yummy. I wonder if they grow in Utah?!
Suzanne, my hat is off to you for responsibly cultivating and caring for your land. What a great example of stewardship! Thanks for sharing that ~ and great pics, as they will help me know what to keep an eye out for when I visit East Tennessee.
Your picture of trilliums really took me back! I used to live in trillium country and remember picking the fruit from them. Lemony! I haven’t seen trilliums in 30 years, and sadly, onion lover that I am, I’ve never even heard of ramps until I read about them in your blog. You’re so lucky to have both of them growing wild in your area!
Can ramps be grown by bulbs in Maine..If they are wild,are they indiginous to our area? Ahhhh..the snow just left us..can dandelion greens and fiddleheads be far behind…
Kathleen, I don’t know if ramps would grow in Maine or not. They are native to the Appalachian area. But you could try!
I’m a displaced engineer working in SW Virginia (living weekends in SC). On my way to Ashville to visit my Mom on Her day, I noticed a sign for a Ramp Festival in Flag Pond, TN. I stopped for a plate of ramps and taters and oh my they were great! I also found a guy with a boxful of ramps for sell and bought three bunches. Mmmmm!!!
I also want to cultivate some of these jewels, but I am living in an apartment for now. I will have to do some guerilla farming in a secret spot…
Do I plant on a north slope? Do they need most shade or some shade? Any tips to select my spot would be greatly appreciated. But hurry they won’t last long!
Living in an apartment….God I miss my chickens!
Brian, I don’t know if a north slope is necessary or not. The ramps I dug up were on a north slope, though, and I planted mine on a north slope on our farm. A nice shady wooded area is best! They like shade.
I’ve tried for years to start ramps growing on my property. Like you, I split them up and placed them strategically around the woods in places I thought they were most likely to be happy, however, the most recent attempt was the simplest and most successful. The last ramps I got (last year), I simply took a whole clump and buried them right next to my front porch in the flower bed. Guess what – this year I had a nice little clump of ramps come up and stay happy. I didn’t feast on them yet, not enough, may be in a couple of years.
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I pick wild mushrooms and also ramps. Just last year i gathered up what i guessed to be 20 to 40 thousand ramp seeds and with the help of my young boys planted them in several areas around the woods near my house. I also planted some in two local parks. the woods there have a small plot of ramps that i have harvested over the past two years but i wanted to fill the hills and valleys with them!!!!!!!! next year I will gather up more seeds and do the same i wish i would have started doing this 6 years ago! Mushroom Man
Oh yaeh I forgot to mention I live north of Pittsburgh Pa
GO STEELERS! MUSHROOM MAN
So … are the ramps you planted last year starting to show up this spring? I’m wondering if they’ll grow in my Pacific Northwest garden. There’s an outfit in Richwood that sells bulbs and seeds.
I don’t know yet! We probably won’t be able to tell for another month or so if something’s coming up that looks like ramps. I hope so!
We planted ramps last year. I was curious when they should be coming up. I did notice some of them flowered last year, so that gave me hope that I will get something this year. Getting excited!!
I did go out and look yesterday, and I did find some coming up. We planted them in bunches, so it will take awhile before we can harvest from our area. We more than likely will have to go and pick them from the same place we picked last year, and also transplant more in our woods.
did your ramps come up that way i never heard of that before so your saying to just cut the roots off the bulb right>>
Yes, they did. You can see this post with more pictures of how I plant them.
The original ramps I planted this way two years ago are still growing and coming up every year!
How is your experiment going? I am thinking about trying to grow some as well!
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