Friday, June 15, 2012

Ramps in early spring woods - abundant, vulnerable


We had a fabulous crop of ramps in the woods early this spring. One day Peggy and I really got into it, and gathered about 2 pounds (in a half hour). The ramps have a VERY delicate, yet full onion-shallot flavor. She carried this treasure away to her apartment, and ate ramp-flavored everything for several days.

The white below-ground bulb has a lot more flavor than the green leaves that show above-ground. Many folks are worried about over-harvesting so they leave the bulbs in the ground and just take the leaves – and then probably wonder what’s so special about ramps!

We dug with a trowel or shovel to fully remove several plants, in scattered areas around a ramp bed. New plants will spread to fill in the small gaps left by the digging. But you do need to be careful because the growing areas are fragile, usually an uneven woodland surface with little or no soil, covered in rocks and roots amongst which the ramps flourish. If you are really concerned about over-harvesting, after cleaning the ramps you can carry the remnants of the roots back out to the woods and bury them for re-growth.

Someone not acclimated to these careful harvest practices can easily damage woodland ramp beds. I was contacted by a restaurant person who said he’d like to come by with a shovel and dig ramps out of my woods.

At first I thought that would be ok, if I went along, but my new Primitive Pursuits friends said, “Never let anyone else do the harvesting or they’ll ruin it.” They meant that the well-meaning ramp hunter could crush the ramps, rip up and trample the beds, and make a giant mess with a shovel, without even realizing it.

So I offered to harvest and deliver a certain amount of ramps, but the contact never finalized – probably just as well! Maybe next year, with the accent on maybe.

1 comment:

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