By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
When the forest floor is warmed by the sun, before the trees leaf out, ramps make their way into the light. And folks in the know are ready to harvest the harbinger of the new foraging season. As long as I can remember my dad was one of those folks.
Ramps, for those who haven’t caught the fever, are wild onions that grow in the Eastern United States. In the raw, they taste like a strong onion with finishes of garlic. Cooked for short periods of time, they mellow. No matter, they’re easily addictive to the allium-o-phile.
At times, my dad ate so many of the bulbs that he’d sweat the aroma and mom would make him sleep on the couch. This isn’t unusual. The same thing will happen if you eat a lot of garlic.
Dad found them in fields near his work and took advantage of their abundance. He had to move fast because that abundance is short lived. In Northeast Ohio it starts around late March, early April and continues until nature says stop. That’s usually when new leaves shade the ground.
I found my first patch in the mid-2000s during an Easter egg hunt in Chardon. While my sons gathered pastel eggs filled with candy and cash, I gingerly pulled bulbs from the earth. Harvested correctly, the plant population proliferates. Harvested harshly, they won’t return.
Proud of my haul, I fried thin slices with diced potatoes. Disappointed, I got nothing. Thus, I learned that ramps become bland when exposed to heat for too long. For that reason I eat them raw or, perhaps, lightly grilled.
This year the weather is slowing their appearance in Northeast Ohio. I can hardly wait.
For more information read about ramps, HSA’s herb of the month for March.