Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wild Edibles: Leeks (A.K.A Ramps)

If you live in or near Appalachia you more than likely have heard of or tried wild leeks or as many know them as ramps. They have the smell like a mix of wild onion and garlic and to many taste like heaven (beware very bad breath will ensue post meal but is well worth it).

The scientific name of this plant is Allium Tricoccum and is commonly referred to as Wild Leeks, Ramps or Wild Garlic. The ramp is a bulb-forming perennial with broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. Both the white lower leaf stalks and the broad green leaves are edible. The leaves are are very tender early in the Spring and the bulb is edible year round, though they can toughen up in the summer. Ramps grow in close groups strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil and are easily recognized by their 1 or 2 broad leaves measuring 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide and 4 to 12 inches long. Look for soil habitats that are sandy, moist and often on hillsides and near streams.  To the right you can see these delicious wild edibles can be found throughout Appalachia and somewhat in the Midwest but more sparingly so West of the Mississippi. Historically ramps were seen as a “spring tonic” because it was one of the first green vegetables eaten in spring and helped “cure” ailments attributed to the winter diet. Ramps are a good source of vitamin C, which can be lacking from the starchy or protein-laden foods most often eaten in winter. One cup of chopped ramps with bulb and lower leaf portion contains only
32 calories and has 1 gram each of both protein and dietary fiber.

NOTE OF CAUTION: Avoid the deadly lily-of-the-valley which looks similar to ramps. While ramps leaves have a pungent garlic/onion odor, lily-of-the-valley has no odor. So if you dig up a plant you believe to be Ramps and it has little to no smell.... You don't have ramps they will run you out of a house if you leave them setting out for a few hours.
The above picture is a cluster of ramps on a moist north facing slope. You will find them mostly in wooded areas near a stream or slopes that stay moist with decent cover. I tend to find them near oak trees in my area but that is not consistent universally by any means.
A closer look at the edible leaves which come up with one to two per plant in close proximity to each other. Remember they should be 4"-12" long.
Once dug up you will have something close to what I have pictured above. Note the transition of color from green to purple to white on the plant which is also very helpful in identifying the plant.
Above is the plant after it is cleaned and prepped for use as an edible.

Preparation and Storage
Both the leaves and the bulbs of ramps can be eaten and both are delicious.  They are best used fresh, but can also be prepared for long term storage. The best way to store the bulbs is by freezing.  Simply cut off the greens, clean the dirt off the bulbs and cut off the roots.  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.  Once they are frozen put them in jars or plastic containers, seal tightly and return to freezer.  They may alternatively be stored wrapped individually in wax paper and stored frozen in sealed jars or pickled or pressure canned.Many people used to can ramps; unfortunately, there are no known tested recipes for canning ramps; therefore, it is not recommended by public health officials. Pickling ramps, however, is okay if they are stored in the refrigerator for no longer than a few weeks and not on a shelf at room temperature.

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 begin to wilt in the refrigerator after 4 days or so and in the bucket after a day or so depending on temperature. Ramp bulbs and leaves may 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 pasta, eggs, wild mushrooms, potatoes stir fried, raw greens, fish (trout specifically) and pork.

Ramp Recipes:
Steak hoagie Appalachian style. Hoagie bun, steak diced, green peppers, foraged wild onions, foraged ramps, foraged morels, lots of cheese and mayo. A little slice of Wild, Wonderful Almost Heaven West By God Virginia right there!
Ramps, steak and fried potatoes. Traditional Application meal and best thing is all you need is a little olive oil, natures seasoning and throw it in a cast iron skillet and cook it to perfection together.
Ramp stuffed Trout: Clean your trout and ramps, stuff around six full ramps into the trout and secure it with food safe cordage or simply use the stocks of the ramps to wrap the trout for added taste. you also may want to use a ramp leaf base if on a grill or simply wrap this in 15+ ramps and place it on your bead of coals to cook. An alternative method is to get aluminum foil place the trout in with a dozen full ramps, butter, seasoning, wild onions and possibly some potatoes (I did dandelion root diced once and it seemed to work out well for a completely foraged meal).
Potato-Ramp Soup- Good for those cold Spring days with a grilled cheese sandwich
-5 large or 8 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped,
-2 cups chopped ramps, with bulb and leaves,
-3 stalks of celery, chopped
-2 cups water
-1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, and garlic powder (or to taste)
-1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
-½ cup butter
-1½ Tablespoons dried parsley
-Milk, if needed
-Combine potatoes, ramps, and celery in 8 quart stock pot. Add 2 cups of water (water should not cover potatoes). Stir in desired amount of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Boil potato mixture until potatoes are fork-tender (about 20 minutes). Do not drain. Mash potatoes with a potato masher or fork. Add evaporated milk, butter, and parsley. Stir. If mixture is too thick, add milk until the desired consistency is reached. Bring to steaming, but not boiling. Can be served immediately; however, flavors combine better if the soup sits for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Breakfast Wrap Up- This can be made up of whatever you desire but I usually put in thinly sliced or diced potatoes, bacon, three diced ramps, four eggs and a variety of spices. Makes for an amazing breakfast before you head out fishing!

Need Help Identifying Wild Edibles? Try These Field Guides


Ramps are an amazing early spring wild edible and are still available at the time this article is being published for foraging. What I like the best about this wild edible (aside from the nutritional content) is the robust flavor is brings to food each spring. In the days when seasoning was not available at every grocery store on every corner this edible would provide a welcomed relief to bland winter meals. While the wild edible may more sparsely dissipated throughout the US it is still an extremely valuable spring edible which should be high on the priority list of every forager. If you have a heavy diet of ramps throughout the spring and summer I highly recommend mouthwash and brushing your teeth post meal (possible multiple times) as they do create a very offensive smell. Also if you skipped over the preservation of portion of this article be sure to read it on how to save these for the future (if you have any canning recipes please pass them on to me please).  As a parting gift how about a link to a page I found which offers 22 recipes using ramps (LINK).

Have something outdoor/bushcraft/trapping/preparedness/hiking/camping/fishing/hunting related you want me to make a post about? Leave me a comment and I will see what I can do! As always feel free to leave your questions and comment below! Also if you enjoy the blog please vote for us on the following websites to help us reach a wider audience:
You are only able to vote once DAILY using this site! Currently we are just outside the top 20 on this site.   
You are able to vote DAILY on this site! We are currently ranked # 2 on this site!

No comments:

Post a Comment