It's way too easy to run up to the ramp patch after work with good intentions of sustainbly digging ramps. You get to the trailhead at pm and it's 6pm by the time you're digging ramps. The sun's about to slip behind the mountains and you're in a sudden hurry to get your ramps and get out of there. So you abandon your plan and jerk as many roots out of the ground as you can before running out. Sustainably harvesting ramps takes more time, so you really need to make allowance for it.
Plus it's a lot more fun to have a leisurely walk into the woods, not worrying about racing the waning light. If you can't give yourself the time to do it, please consider taking only greens and leaving the bulbs undisturbed.
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You won't need nearly as much time if you only harvest leaves! Digging knife You need a small digging implement to pull back dirt from the bulb--a Japanese hori hori knife is perfect for this! Sharp knife Make sure it's sharp! A dull knife will do more harm than good--you'll end up mutilating the bulb so it's not useable as food and not viable as a plant. You may even want to touch up the blade as you dig, since the grit of the dirt will take your edge. Backpack or shoulder bag I usually put a few plastic grocery bags in a backpack and then load a bag or two with ramps before putting them in my pack, which helps keeps the dirt out of the pack.
The most sustainable way to harvest ramps is to cut only one leaf, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. The leaves, in my opinion are the best part, anyway, and taking only leaves is the best way to ensure the colony will remain viable. Pull back just enough dirt to expose a little bit of the bulb so you can see where to put your knife.
I find that, when I overzealously harvest, it makes more work for me in the long run, because some ramps will inevitably go bad before I can get to them. There's not much more disgusting than the smell of past-their-prime ramps.
And a few ramps go a long way so there's no need to stockpile them. Even though we practice sustainable harvest, I'm afraid the ever-inceasing demand will eclipse the slow procreation. So we've been looking into the possibility of cultivating our own ramps. I've always heard they'll survive almost anywhere in our Southern Appalachian region but will only propagate above feet here.
We've successfully transplanted ramps that come back each year but our little patch hasn't spread it's below ft. Davis, ramps can be transplanted and cultivated from seed at much lower elevations. Apparently, it takes some effort to germinate seeds when climes are warmer than ideal, but it can be done.
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And once a good patch is established, it supposedly requires little maintenance. Ramps are only in season for a month or so, but, for us, getting them is only half the problem. I usually come back from a good ramping trip with several pounds: enough for us to eat fresh before they go bad with a little extra to keep for eating later I rarely go digging more than once a season unless I come home with a particularly light harvest.
Both leaves and bulbs can be eaten and both are delicious. They're best used fresh, but both can be put away for eating later in the year. The easiest way to store ramp bulbs is by freezing: Simply cut off the greens, clean the dirt off the bulbs and cut off the roots if your ramps still have roots.
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Then spread the bulbs out on a sheet pan or waxed paper so they are not touching and freeze. This prevents them from sticking together. They can also be pickled but we don't usually bother. The greens won't last long fresh and deteriorate when frozen. They can be dried, but they lose a lot of their flavor. We've found the best way to preserve them is by making ramp compound butter see recipe below.
A close second is ramp pesto. Either can be stored in the refrigerator in the short term or frozen for use later. For short term storage put ramps in the refrigerator as soon as possible. They should be stored uncleaned. If a refrigerator is not immediately available ramps can be kept with the bulbs submerged in a bucket of water and placed in a cool shaded area.
The leaves will start to wilt in the refrigerator after 4 days or so and in the bucket after a day or so depending on temperature.
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Ramp bulbs and leaves can be diced and used just as you would use onions, green onions, leeks, chives and garlic, but they are much more potent. They pair well with the following:. Some folks like to eat ramps raw. I like a little chopped up in a salad, but ramps as a cooked vegetable are a lot more fun. And it's hard to beat ramps and eggs for breakfast. There's some fun anecdotal history on ramps in there. It's also a collection of old timey recipes and stand-bys like pickled ramps and ramp champ - mashed potatoes with ramps.
Here's one of the recipes Put washed cress into the pan with the water that clings to it. Cook covered, until tender. Garnish with crumpled bacon, finely chopped ramps, and some chopped hard cooked eggs. I absolutely cannot stand ramps. I grew up in West Virginia and my parents ate them every spring. Every spring my sisters and I looked for anywhere else to eat but home.
Smelly and too strong of a taste. Just don't care for them at all. We have tried to cultivate ramps from seed for 3 years here in Connecticut with no success. Only by moving early spring bulbs with lots of little roots still attached have we managed to transplant a few plants. We would love to become a Johnny Rampseed of the Northeast otherwise! Donna Anderson says,. Don't give up Eric! I did the same thing. About 4 years ago I planted 50 ramps seeds and hovered over them each spring. This year I was rewarded with about 20 beautiful plants. I didn't dig these up either, because I know what a process now they go through to become a ramp.
Just make sure you have a nice wooded place, good rich soil from the woods, patience, and some shade. There you go! Good luck! That's awesome, Donna! It's good to hear from someone who's been successful at propagating from seed. Thanks for the inspiration! They like ditches. Had some growing in front of my house right by the street one time. The ditch was positively infested with ramps. I pretty much left them alone.
Not because I don't love ramps; I do. But unfortunately they were badly infested with scads of wolf spiders! They came in pretty good shape right before I went away for the weekend. I put them in water since I didn't have time to plant them and they had drank all the water and tripled in size when I got home on Sunday. Once you get some bulbs established, I believe they reseed themselves, so I think that is the easier way to go.
Karen says,. We find that by finely slicing the leaves into thin ribbons and packing them into plastic containers, they freeze extremely well. Then we just add them still frozen to soups, biscuits, and other recipes.
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That way we are able to use ramps all year. We'll have to try that this year. I've heard that blanching them before freezing helps a lot, too. How sad to read that over harvesting is decimating your local ramp population :- - over here in London, the ancient forest on the outskirts has banned the gathering of wild mushrooms for the same reason.
I respectfully have two suggestions for you, if germination at lower altitudes seems too hit and miss. The bulbs are smaller than your Ramps, but the leaves are about the same size and delish, and they grow at sea level. Check out the Plants for a Future website, pfaf. If you enter 'Allium' in their search engine, both your Ramps, and our Ransoms are listed on the 3rd page. I have a thriving colony in a shady spot in my garden. Love and blessings.