You may know of ramps from fancy restaurants or a backwoods festival in the Appalachians. Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are wild perennial members of the onion family native to North America. They are also called wild onions, wild garlic or wood leek. They were eaten by Native Americans and the city of Chicago is named after them – shikaakwa is the Native American name for ramps.
Ramps have become very trendy in foodie circles. Long a spring favorite in some areas, so much that spring festivals are centered on them they have become so popular that many state have made them a protected plant and limit or forbid harvest from the wild. They are now being grown commercially, but are harder to grow than most onion family members. It’s hard to find a source of plants or seeds but this could be a lucrative small crop if one was located near a city where fine restaurants would feature them. Ramps sell for just under $20 a pound.
Ramps have a single flat broad leaf, similar to the leaf of the Lily Of the Valley. It is sometimes tinged with purple. The stem is similar to a leek or scallion and is the part generally eaten, although the leaves are sometimes used too. Ramps taste like a very strong mixture of green onion and garlic. They are generally cooked before being eaten and frying them in lard or bacon grease and eating them with beans and cornbread or in scrambled eggs are common uses. They are also exchanged for onions or garlic in many recipes. Many gourmet recipes have been built around them too.
It’s hard to find a source to buy ramp seed, the most common way to get plants. Try www.prairiemoon.com or http://www.seedman.com If you try to harvest wild ramps or seeds check to see if your state has any restrictions first. Make sure you know what you are harvesting too; lilies of the valley for instance are poisonous. Ramps grow in patches in rich moist areas, usually in partial shade, generally along wetlands or forest edges. Ramps are primarily a spring crop, although some people are experimenting with growing them as a fall crop too. Ramp seed usually requires a period of cold before it germinates.
There you have it – the onion cousins. Why not try something different in the garden this spring?
Here are some additional articles you may want to read.
Read about an edible oxalis- Oca
Is everything in your garden legal?
How to grow the deadly beauties
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