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FutureStarrAHow to Grow Ramps
Ramps (Allium tricoccum), otherwise known as wild leeks, are native perennial wildflowers commonly harvested as wild food. With a distinctive flavor somewhere between garlic and mild onion, ramps are considered a spring delicacy. For a few short weeks after the snow melts, ramps dishes can be found at upscale restaurants and occasional farmers markets throughout the northeast. Ramps are so highly sought that they are one of the most over-harvested wild edibles. They grow slowly and it takes a long time for wild populations to recover if a forager takes too many.
Like other members of the onion family, ramps grow from underground bulbs. In the early spring, the bulbs send up two long, glossy, oval leaves that smell oniony when torn or bruised. The leaves grow to about six to eight inches tall and three inches wide before dying back in the early summer, just as the leaves begin to come out on the trees overhead. The foliage and bulbs are the edible parts of the plant and must be harvested before the leaves go dormant. After the foliage has faded, six-to-ten-inch bare flowering stalks emerge from the ground, topped with small white flowers in globular clusters.In the wild, ramps grow in rich, moist, woodlands that are dominated by deciduous tree species such as maple, beech or oak. Soils with a pH closer to neutral (6.8-7.2) are most suitable for growth, thus ramps are often found growing in proximity to other wildflowers that prefer more alkaline soils, such as bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), trout lily (Erythronium americanum) and Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). In order to grow ramps successfully in the garden, similar growing conditions must be provided. The perfect planting bed is located in full-to-partial shade with highly organic, consistently moist soil and an approximately neutral pH. Ramps are right at home in a woodland or naturalized shade garden with plenty of added compost and leaf mulch.
Harvesting ramps takes a little care in order to maintain a stable population. Though the bulbs are often considered the best eating, digging them up clearly kills the entire plant. Harvesting only the foliage is a more sustainable way of keeping ramps in the garden from season to season. Removing only a single leaf from each plant is the most effective way of keeping the bulbs healthy and growing. Removing all of the foliage won’t necessarily kill the plants, but it can weaken them by cutting down on photosynthesis.Ramps are a native plant found growing in moist woodlands of the Appalachian mountain range in eastern North America. They begin growth from a small bulb and spread and colonize over time. The leaves emerge in early spring, but the plants are ephemeral, disappearing within a month or two and remaining dormant until the following spring. Their leaves have an elongated oval shape that tapers to a point. They resemble lily of the valley leaves, although a bit slimmer. (Source: www.thespruce.com)