Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ramp it Up

For the past few years, I have become more and more interested in harvesting and gathering from the forest.  My interest was piqued by wild mushrooms, especially the well known and delicious Morel, which gradually makes its appearance early each spring-around here, usually the last week in April and early May.  Living in west central Wisconsin, I’m not exactly in Morel heaven, but I give it a shot every year anyway, scouring under dead elm and ash and old apple orchards.  The Coulee region is much better and with prime Morel hunting grounds well-guarded family secrets.
Ramp Colony growing in hardwood swamp

Prior to Morels popping through the ground, another forest plant gets a head start.  I first noticed these plants during early spring turkey hunts, where the scent of garlic and onion would waif through the air after walking through a patch of them.
Harvesting Ramps or Wild Leeks
 
Ramps, also known as Wild Leeks, are a wild onion native to North America.  Its bright green leaves are some of the first color to carpet the forest floor, a stark contrast to the brown of the previous fall.
Ramps

The bulbs of these flavorful plants resemble a scallion and the flavor, although similar to onion, is usually of strong garlic.  I’ve used them in different dishes, just as you would onion.  The green leaves also can be used and have a similar flavor, but not quite as strong.
Cleaned Ramps

When Ramp hunting and harvesting, be aware that they grow in colonies and you should only harvest a small portion in each group.  They are easy to clean-cut off the roots, wash and cut to whatever size you like.  I freeze them whole for later use in dishes.  This “spring,” Ramp it up and enjoy another small savory plant from our outdoors!
Prepared Ramps and some refreshing Oscars Chocolate Oatmeal Stout-great foraging day!

1 comment:

  1. This is the best thing about spring! Free food, amazing!

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