Ramps: Spring Vegetable

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. misc 015

There were baskets of them for sale at the Greenmarket in Union Square, New York City. misc 010They’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.misc 016

Anyway. American ramps are a tasty spring treat, and it’s great to see people buying local and enjoying a taste of the wild. misc 011It’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.

misc 014

The best kind of vegetable: local and organic!

About unmowed

I'm a writer and a botanist who loves the weirdly weedy places of the world.
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7 Responses to Ramps: Spring Vegetable

  1. OK, it looks like I might need to go into the city to get some. (Haven’t been in stores out here in Westchester.) I loooooved the chicken & ramps recipe which ran in the NY Times last spring. It’s here if you’d like to try: http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/12428/Splayed-Roast-Chicken-With-Caramelized-Ramps-Garlic-and-Capers.html . Note: I didn’t use the capers and it was still delish.

    • unmowed says:

      Oh, my gosh, that sounds delicious. I would try making it if I could cook. I live near Albany and I never see ramps here–they were so unusual I had to photograph them.

      • Unmowed! Cooking is such a fun (easy) thing to do! I won’t try to go all Michael Pollan on ya but really I do recommend it. 😉 Alas, that is for another blog/book project…. Enjoy (yet another) nice weekend here in NY!

      • unmowed says:

        Yes, seriously, you’re absolutely right about cooking. It doesn’t come naturally to me–if there’s such a thing as a green cooking thumb, I lack it. But lately I’ve been trying to do more cooking, and it’s just incredible how much money you can save not eating out all the time, not to mention little details like eating healthy food, supporting local farmers, etc. I love Michael Pollan, and I’ve been meaning to read his latest.

  2. I came across your post (and comment!) when doing a bit of research on ramps around Albany, NY. Although the ramps season is over, I thought I’d let you know that you can source locally foraged foods in Albany. We sell these products in our store on Delaware Ave.

    • unmowed says:

      How interesting! I’ll be sure and stop by next time I’m in Albany. What are some other locally foraged foods that you have?

      • Thanks! We will be carrying foraged mushrooms this summer…morel season is upon us…and chanterelles afterward. We are expanding our selection as we come across more foragers.

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