Ramps, Leeks, or Wild Onions are one of the first tasty morsels to pop out the ground in the early spring in the forests of Eastern North America. Their taste and smell resembles a cross between an onion and a garlic. Ramps, or Allium tricoccum are a member of the Lily family.
Ramps have very high levels of vitamin C. Early settlers relied on the ramps for their restorative qualities after long winters. Large doses of vitamin C can prevent and cure Scurvy.
The pungent and crisp flavor of the leek is hard to beat. Many consider ramps to be their favorite foraged edible. The whole plant is edible from the leaves, to the bulb.
When foraging for leeks, it’s best to have a knife to CUT THE BULBS FROM THE ROOTS. Leaving the roots in the ground, will help ensure the survival of the plant for coming years. If you do not have a knife, you may do as I did, which was take LESS THAN HALF of what you find, leave the rest of the leeks to continue their life cycle in the forest. By helping the plants propagate, you can return to the leeks you’ve found for years to come.
Where to find the leeks
Ramps grow like scallions, in groups, with their bulbs underneath the ground. They prefer sandy, moist soil so looking near streams and on river banks is a good idea.
They are also known to grow near certain trees: Poplar, Birch, Beech, and/or Maple trees.
Their leaves are deep green, and their stems grow red, their bulbs white, making them a very striking plant.
Want to make sure it’s a ramp? Tear off a part of the leaf and give it a sniff.
If it smells like onions, you have the right plant!!!
How to forage:
To me, foraging is an art.
It takes patience, attentiveness, and the ability to follow your gut, your intuition, your heart. Where are you feeling led to? Go there. Don’t ask questions, don’t hold yourself back by logic. Follow your inner guidance.
I find that when I’m truly in the moment, I am led to what I’m looking for.
To retrieve the leek from the soil. Reach down to it’s base and cut right above the roots, leaving the roots in the soil.
If you do not have a knife, take less than half of the bunch.
Do not forage from small groupings, look to find large patches!
NOTE: In some states, “Ramping” (a term for foraging ramps) has become quite popular, which has left the ramp to become endangered in some areas, even illegal to pick! This is because people were removing the whole plant, and leaving no ramps behind.
Leave some behind!
Time to thank the forest and say goodbye.
Cooking with Leeks
Treat the Leek like you would a scallion or onion.They are a great addition to most any meal! Since I harvested, I have been adding them to almost every meal I cook. They also make a great soup!
First wash off the dirt.
Try the leaves raw, I think they’re delicious.
Or cut them and cook them with your dish
I hope you found this blog helpful!
Stay safe out there! With the forest floor covered in last year’s leaves, it’s hard to tell the state of the ground beneath. Avoid steep banks and loose, muddy soil! Especially if you’re alone. And remember, never eat something you’ve foraged unless you are 100% certain of it’s species.
“WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!”
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir