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Plant of Week 3: Ramps
Forage this week for ramps - also called wild leeks and ramsons - one of the earliest wild edibles to pop out in the spring. Ramps are members of the Allium, or "Onion Family" of plants, so they have the same yummy garlicky-onion flavor as chives, scallions, leeks, garlic, and onions. They have 1-3 wide leaves, each 1-2 inches wide and 4-12 inches long. You can harvest a leaf from multiple plants (to keep the ramp stock coming back every year), dig up the entire bulb, or sustainably harvest in the same method Native Americans have used - by cutting off the bottom of the bulb, keeping the roots in the soil to re-grow for next year.
Species: Allium tricoccum
HABITAT: Ramps are native to the Appalachian mountain region in eastern North America and have spread as far north as Canada and as far south as the Carolinas. They are found growing in the forest, in patches with rich, moist soil that has some shade. When temperatures warm up in June, the leaves of the ramps will die back and their bulbs will be hard to find.
IS IT EDIBLE?: Yes! The entire plant is edible. Enjoy the leaves, stalk, and bulb. Ramps can be chopped and used in the same recipes as you would use onions, green onions, leeks, chives and garlic. They go great with potatoes, stir fries, meat, pasta, eggs, mushrooms, or even chopped raw in a salad. Note that many people find raw ramps very potent and prefer them cooked!
CAUTION: Wash ramps thoroughly. Ramps have become a "Species of Special Concern" in Maine, Rhode Island, and Tennessee where they have been over-harvested. Please harvest sustainably by either taking just 1 leaf from many plants or using the Native American method of leaving the roots in the soil to re-grow.
IS IT MEDICINAL?: Ramps are high in Vitamin C, which can ward off scurvy. The Cherokee Native Americans would eat ramps to treat colds and made a juice from the plant for ear aches. The Iroquois Native Americans would make a tonic from ramps to treat intestinal worms. Learn more. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Recipes with Ramps: