Monday, April 12, 2010

Ramp On!

The foraging season has begun.  First up is the wild leek. I've never foraged before and I eagerly looked forward to venturing into this new activity for acquiring my food.  As I  headed into the woods, I realized that I hadn't thought this gathering thing thoroughly through. I realized that though I brought the right size of spade, I hadn't considered some other things.  Like, what did it look like? (I know, goofy.) What is the environment that i would find it in?  As luck would have it, I found a ramp, but I couldn't find a wild leek! So, the trip was a bust!  I was hesitant to pick my first ramp. I decided that I wasn't prepared enough and I had better do a little homework before I started pulling things out of the ground.

 Imagine my surprise when i learned that ramps and wild leeks are the same thing. They grow  abundantly in our Michigan forests. Their soil habitat is sandy and moist and you most often find them on hillsides or very near a stream- typical northern michigan landscape.  They have broad, smooth, medium green leaves with a long stem attached to a scallion like root bulb.  The lower stem has  a deep purple or burgandy tint. And the easiest way for me to identify it,would be to smell and even taste it.  It tastes like a cross between an onion and a garlic.  It's pungent, spicy with a hint of  "nature".  I could certainly find that.
And I learned that wild leeks are high in vitamin C and A, and are full of beneficial minerals and their peppery flavor can replace an onion in just about any recipe.  The Indians in our region revered the ramp for it's healing properties and welcomed their arrival in the earliest of spring after a long, bland winter diet.

So, before I headed into the woods, i figured that i should  bring the right tools and abide by what i call an unwritten code of conduct for the ramp forager... 

1. Make sure to not be on private property or be certain to obtain permission from the owner before foraging. There are places where plants are protected and it is not legal to remove any specimens.
2. Don't leave a big mess and don't be a hog.  When collecting a rooting plant, always leave plenty of healthy specimens or better yet, leave at least half in the rootbound group.
3. Make the disturbance  hard to notice.  Replace moved around dirt and fill up any holes.  Use leaf litter to cover the area that  I disturbed. 
4. Use the appropriate tools to extract my leeks.  A small hand held spade or a dandelion weed can easily separate bulbs. 

Easy enough.  And off we went.

And here is an adaption of Julia Child's famous Leek and Potato soup. This recipe is simple and yummy.  Substitute 1/2 the amount of wild leeks for the leeks in this recipe and you will have a delicious and healthy winter spell-breaking winner!!


  1. Ramps! The first time I ever heard of those was from a nearly toothless local woman on a hillside next to the Appalachian trail somewhere in northern Georgia. She left quite an impression! We ended up taking her advice and collected some to throw them in with our campfire instant noodles.

  2. great blog of something I would never know by name of "ramps"
    receipe sounds like Julia was cleaning out the fridge.
    worth a try for sure.

  3. Lovely photos. I've always used "ramp" and "wild leek" interchangably. . . I'm hoping to get out and harvest some soon. I have a recipe for jerked, pickled onions that I hope to try out on ramps.