Do you see them?
Here scattered over the hillside on our farm?
And more ramps!
Ramps where there were no ramps before.
Ramps (Alliium tricoccum) or wild leeks are the superbly stinky April delight of Appalachia. Both the white root parts and the leafy greens are edible. Ramps are most often served fried in bacon fat with eggs and/or potatoes and served with pinto beans and cornbread, but they can be used in just about any recipe similar to how you would use onions or garlic. In recent years, ramps have become a trendy gourmet item and in some places can be quite expensive. They grow in the dark, rich woodland soil near streams or on hillsides across the Appalachian region. In West Virginia, springtime is the time of community ramp festivals and ramp dinners, roadside ramp stands, and, for the intrepid, ramp-hunting in the wild.
Last spring, I hunted ramps on our farm and came up empty-handed. Not to be deterred, I “networked” my way onto a neighboring farmer’s hillside and brought home a pungent bagful to start my own garden of ramps. I planted some after cutting off the root ends and planted others whole, bulbs and leaves attached. I chose several shady areas of a seemingly ramp-friendly hillside on our farm and deposited my ramp dreams among them.
Truthfully, I didn’t hold out a lot of hope that I’d see these ramps come up. I was sure it had to be harder than that. I was sure I’d have to plant ramps over and over and maybe they’d never take.
But– My ramps came up! Seriously, I was stunned to see them. I did it! I have my very own hillside “garden” of ramps!
I found my ramps coming up in numerous locations on the hillside where I planted them last year. (So many that it seems to have made no difference whether I cut the root ends off before planting or not–I think they all came up.) It’ll take time for these ramps to establish and spread, so I won’t be cooking with my own ramps anytime soon. Ramps multiply quickly, though. Every spring, there will be more and more. In a few years, there will be enough to harvest. I’ll have great, big, gorgeous patches of them, just like on the farm where I got my starter plants last April.
I can’t wait!
Interested in growing ramps? See more about hunting ramps, and planting them, here: Finding and Growing Ramps.
And for tips on preparing ramps, and a few recipe ideas, go here: Cooking with Wild Ramps.