Wild Wanderings: Ramps

I will probably reflect many more times than once how every time that it comes for me to become connected to a new plant friend it shows up in droves.  This story is of my meeting with Ramps, the wild allium that brightly, if not pungently, welcomes the growing season in the springtime.

To be clear I’m not a professional forager (does that even exist?,) or a plant biologist; I’m just a layperson who has been introducing herself to plants for years.  All I do is walk in the woods and fields that surround my day-to-day and introduce myself to the landscape and the things that live there.  Sometimes I sing to them, and sometimes have conversations.  The conversations can be aloud musings or subtly energetic exchanges of awareness and information.  Over time I’ve become friends with various plants along the way and in return they freely offer me sustenance I can not buy in the grocery store.

This past spring was the spring of the ramps.  I’ve wanted to harvest them for years, but even with guide books didn’t feel confident enough with this one.  Of course with what I know now its easy, but then they say hindsight is 20/20.The first time I actually saw them in person was at a local college.  Off in the swampy woods where I felt like I was clearly trespassing at the time all even though I was with an alum and they said it was ok.  So deep in the muck and all of a sudden there they were.  They reminded me of lily of the valley, only they clearly weren’t.  Well that’s a helpful description.  I really don’t know how better to describe it that it looks like something but is not. One to three broad leaves, about 6-8″ tall.  Older plants have a stem shooting up from the center that will turn in the summer to a flower and by late fall into little round black seeds.

But it wasn’t until my third time finding them that they appeared in droves on a hike in the Berkshires.  A field of green on the forest floor when nothing else is growing.  That’s how the ramps appeared to me.  But as I went further and further down the trail it was like the area had been blanketed in green.  After a long cold winter there is nothing more beautiful than that.  Or tasty…

Seed to harvestable bulb can take 3 years.  At least.  So if you are going to start seeking and harvesting ramps be considerate and make sure that you just harvest one leaf per plant.  You don’t need the bulb at all for cooking.  If you have found a spot worth harvesting make sure not to take more than 1/10th of the plot; we are not the only ones who use these as food.

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