Ramps: Grow and Cook This Edible, Wild ‘Weed’

Reader Contribution by Barry Glick and Sunshine Farm And Gardens
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“The cat is out of the bag!” “The the word is on the street!”

Well, there are a lot of ways to say it, but you get my drift. I’m referring to the same news that I learned over 43 years ago when, as a young, naive lad, I moved to the mountains of Greenbrier County, West Virginia, from the streets of Philadelphia.

Discovering Wild, Edible ‘Weeds’

The local folks were enthralled with us — the back-to-the-land hippie homesteaders — influx and were very eager to teach us the ways of the wild. They would take us out into the woods to educate us about edible wild plants, such as Rock Lettuce (Saxifraga micranthidfolia), Creasy Greens (Barbarea verna), Poke Salad (Phytolacca americana), Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and many other edible wild “weeds.”

However, the most cherished and prized edible “native” of all was Allium tricoccum,or what they introduced us to as “ramps.” The word ramps is a corruption of the old Anglic word “Ramson,” in case you’re wondering how this seemingly strange common name originated.

Now, decades later, it seems that every five-star, gourmet restaurant in the U.S. has a ramp dish on the menu.

Growing and Cooking with Ramps

Ramps, aka Allium tricoccum, are really wild leeks. They combine the taste of garlic (Allium sativum) with the taste of onion (Allium cepa), although that’s really somewhat of an oversimplification as the taste of ramps is bursting with other — so many other — flavors and nuances that they leave their actual essence difficult to verbalize.

But besides being delicious, they’re also a highly interesting and desirable landscape plant for the shade garden. They emerge from bare ground in early spring with very supple, medium green foliage and stand about 6 to 12 inches tall.

When these leaves disappear, you get 8-inch to 12-inch sturdy flower stems topped with lovely white flowers. These flowers eventually get pollinated and reveal their very attractive shiny black seeds. Ramps are very easy to grow from seed, and the bulbs usually double and form new bulbs that you can pull apart and replant.

Here in W. Va., ramps are celebrated like saints and holidays. There are many “Ramp Suppers” run by various chambers of commerce and volunteer fire departments, etc.

These woodland treasures are becoming so popular that even Martha Stewart put up a page of 15 recipes for cooking with ramps, and here’s another 7 recipes for you. Would you believe that Arianna Huffington has her own “Ramp” recipes? I even found quick and easy directions for making ramp butter.

And if all that weren’t enough, ramps have a huge store of vitamins and minerals, and like garlic and onions, have many nutritional values and medicinal benefits.

Ramps are super easy to grow and have no insect, pest or disease problems. All you need is some shade. Of course, the richer and moister your shade is, the better they’ll grow. Very serious, detailed cultivation information and some less detailed, but very relevant cultivation information can be found at the links.

Where to Find Ramps

I guess that after all that exciting information about ramps, you’re saying to yourself, “WOW, where can I buy some of these amazing plants?”

Well, you’re just a couple clicks away. I’ve had ramps for sale for several years now and I’ve sold quite a few, but wanted to build up a large stock before doing a mailing. And now the time is right to plant them for a good seed set next year. Just fill out the order form, print it out and mail it with your check.

I welcome you to come visit and see the ramps in full bloom this coming spring — just call or email me first to make sure that I’ll be here to show you around.

If you have any questions, would like to chat about ramps or any other plant that Barry is offering, send an email to his personal email address. Barry’s entire “Speakers Portfolio” is now on line, so, if you’re looking for a dynamic, entertaining, educating speaker for your Master Gardener Group, Garden Club, Civic Organization etc, you can peruse it here. You can follow Sunshine Farm and Gardens on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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