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Briar Patch Outdoors

Ramps - A Spring Delicacy

by George Hedgepeth

The Ramp (Allium tricoccum) is a wonderful find for a forager in Michigan. It is one of my favorite spring treats. Also called the Ramson or Wild Leek, the Ramp is tasty, versatile, and can be stored. It is often locally abundant, and its taste is not so foreign that people need to adjust their tastes to enjoy it. Several Ramp festivals occur in the US, mainly in highland areas of the east such as West Virginia. They are a versatile, delicious member of the Onion family.

If you seek Ramps, look in the early spring. Although the bulbs can be gathered year round, they are elusive except when their light green, broadly lanceolate leaves are peeping thru the forest duff in large, fragrant colonies. By early June, they will have turned yellow and wilted. They are often found in Beech-Maple woods, mixed in with Trilliums, Trout Lilies, Spring Beauties, May Apples, and Wild Ginger. The soil that supports Ramp colonies will be dark and moist, but not wet.

foraging for wild ramps wild ramps in Michigan woods wild ramps late spring

To gather Ramps, a sharp stick or small trowel is very handy. They are not buried very deep in the soil. Often, the tops of the bulbs are actually exposed, but they hang on to the earth with determination. I have often gathered Ramps with my bare hands, but this will make for dirty fingernails! Ramps grow in clusters, but I try to only take some of each group -- they are a relatively slow growing perennial. One can gather quite a few of these bulbs in a hurry because they grow in sizable colonies.

Running water is handy for washing ramps, but I often leave them un-washed until just before use. There is also a paper-like outer skin that, if carefully removed, takes most of the soil along with it. If I will be cooking them in the woods, I often rinse them in a handy stream. The cooking process will eliminate any creepy-crawlies in the water.

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Briar Patch Outdoors
219 Holmes Street
Durand MI 48429
(989) 288-0168

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