Common Names: Ramps, ramp, spring onion, ramson, wild leek, wood leek, wild garlic
Sub-category: Garlic genus
A bulb-forming perennial with broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. The flower stalk appears after the leaves have died back, producing a white ball of flowers. Ramps grow in close groups strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil.
Found in rich forests, usually growing along the edges of forest streams and just a bit uphill from swamps.
Edible Notes: Ramps are an excellent wild edible. Both the leaves and bulb are edible and they can be cooked in the same way as scallions or shallots or eaten raw. Often found growing in abundance, these are an important wild edible to know for survival. Ramps are best harvested in late April or early May, after the leaves have a chance to fully develop.
To properly harvest the entire plant, do not attempt to pull the ramp out by the stems or leaves, they will only break and leave the bulb underground. Carefully remove dirt around the clusters of ramps using a small trowel or screwdriver. Put your fingers into the dirt and get them below the bulbs of the ramps. Loosen the whole cluster and pull free from the soil by pushing up below. This will allow you to take a whole cluster at once, and carefully preserve the leaves and bulbs intact. Place the ramp clusters into a bag, with roots and dirt still attached. The ramps will last longer with dirt and moisture on the roots, only remove the roots when you are ready to use them.
To clean, separate the bulbs from the cluster and peel back the dirty and loosened outer layer of skin from the bulb by holding the stem and sliding your hand up towards the bulb. Use a small pairing knife to remove the roots from the bulb. Rinse the entire ramp under cold water, making sure to clean the dirt that accumulates in the junction between the leaves. Place the bulb of the cleaned ramp in a bowl of cold water and continue cleaning the rest of the bunch. The bowl of water will help to keep the ramps from wilting quickly.
Many ecologist recommend only cutting-off the leaf tops of the plant, preserving the bulbs below. Ramps take years to go from bulb to flower, and thus can be potentially over-harvested in an area. While they are not a threatened species at this time, consideration should always be given to never take too many from one area.
After the ramps are cleaned, they can be chopped, leaves and bulbs, and used fresh in a similar manner as scallions. (Try them fresh on pizza!) The bulbs can be cut from the stems and roasted like shallots or pearl onions. They can also be pickled. The leaves can be chopped and added to soups. The leaves and bulbs can be chopped and dried in a dehydrator (on low setting) and saved for later to be used in a similar manner as dried chives.
Warnings: When harvesting wild ramps, be careful not to confuse them with other species which may be toxic, such as lily-of-the-valley which has very similar leaves, as well as jack-in-the-pulpit, which is found in the same places as ramps and has a similar young root bulb.