Ramps. A strange name for a plant.
It’s a pretty spring wildflower, with flat green leaves. I’ve seen them sprouting in earliest spring, popping out of the dried leaves on the forest floor along with trout lilies, anemones, and hepatica. Wild leeks is another name for them. Odd to think of the pretty spring flower as a vegetable.
There were baskets of them for sale at the Greenmarket in Union Square, New York City. They’re quite delicious–a spicy, oniony taste, but light and delicate. I’ve nibbled them raw, and I imagine they’d be delectable when stir-fried in butter (of course leather boots are delectable when stir-fried in butter.)
Folklorists note: Some websites will tell you that these are the plants in the fairy tale about Rapunzel–remember, Rapunzel’s mother craved the ramps (also called rampion, or rapunzel) growing in her neighbor’s garden, and her husband finally stole some for her. Unfortunately the neighbor turned out to be an evil witch and demanded their baby in return for the stolen plants. But sadly for folklore, the ramps that grow in American woodlands are a native plant (Allium tricoccum) not the same as the European ramp (Campanula rapunculus). Too bad, it’s a great story.
Anyway. American ramps are a tasty spring treat, and it’s great to see people buying local and enjoying a taste of the wild. It’s a taste best enjoyed in moderation, though–a few ramps tossed in an occasional springtime salad are fine, but some states have huge ramp festivals, and ramp populations are not on the increase.
The best kind of vegetable: local and organic!