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FutureStarrA Ramp plant
The ramp plant is a member of the rose family. The plants have long, narrow leaves running parallel to the ground. They have sun-loving rosettes of flowers with a single tube on the end.The flowers are fragrant, turning an intense spectrum of colors at night. They bloom in summer with delicate flowers, perfect for picking in the shade.Of the many native wildflowers that grace the woods in spring, ramps is one of few that is considered a vegetable. Allium tricoccum – commonly known as ramps but also is sometimes called wild leek, spring onion, or ramson – is frequently collected and sold at farmers markets or served in upscale restaurants in the spring as a delicacy for its strong garlic-like odor and sweet spring onion flavor. This is not surprising as it is a member of the onion family (Alliaceae).
This spring ephemeral species is native to rich, moist, deciduous forests and bottoms of eastern North America, from Quebec to South Carolina and west to Minnesota (zones 3-8). The main habitat for ramps is forests dominated by birch, sugar maple, and poplar but they are also found naturally under beech, linden (basswood), hickory, and oak. They are typically found in association with other wildflowers including bellwort, bloodroot, ginseng, mayapple, trout lily and trillium. Apparently, indigenous peoples referred to the area around the southern part of Lake Michigan by the name they used for the dense colonies of this plant that grew there in the 17th century as CicagaWuni or shikako, which Europeans pronounced as “Chicago”.
This plant is celebrated at many annual spring ramps festivals throughout the mountains of the eastern U.S. and other areas (but especially in Appalachia where ramps are widespread and common), with tremendous numbers of wild plants gathered from nearby forests. The intensive harvesting for these types of events and their increasing use in restaurants is seriously damaging the wild populations of ramps in some areas as they are being harvested in unsustainable quantities.Traditionally, the Cherokee dug, and still dig, ramps by leaving the roots. This is done by cutting off the bottom of the bulb with a knife while it's still in the ground (more on the how-to below).The implications affect conservationists and foodies alike. Cindy and I are conservationists first and foragers second. What this means for us is that ramping is not only unsustainable, but it gets more arduous each year as we climb higher and longer to find undiscovered ramp patches. (Source:hort.extension.wisc.edu)