|The wild leek (ramp)
is a perennial herb that grows from an oblong shaped, white, edible bulb.
In early spring, two-three basal leaves with parallel veins grow
from the bulb. The leaves are
4-12 inches (10-30 cm) long, 1-3 inches (2.5-8 cm) wide, waxy, edible,
and the lower stem is colored purplish-maroon or white. At the end
of spring the leaves die back and a 8-12 inch long, smooth flower
stem will appear with six- petalled white flowers arranged in an umbrella.
Each flower will be replaced by a trio of shiny black seeds on the
dried umbel. In autumn, foragers can find the bulbs by looking for the
dried flower heads. There are poisonous
look-alikes, but edible plants like ramps will have a
distinctive oniony-garlicky odor when
the plant parts are crushed.
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are an easy item for many foragers
to start with. In the spring, areas of wet forest are blanketed with the
green leaves that grow mostly in pairs. The leaves are lanceolate, 8-12
inches long, flat and wide. The leaves are smooth and have almost a rubbery
feel, and lack veins. When bruised, they emit a distinct garlic smell.
Many communities in Appalchia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania hold festivals
in the spring to celebrate the ramps, featuring this foraged food in local
specialties. The leaves are gathered and chopped up to add to dishes, imparting
a oniony/garlicky flavor. Ramps can be found at farmer's markets and in
fancy restaurants. We gather them to use immediately, and then clean and
chop more leaves to freeze for use all year. We add the chopped leaves
to soups and biscuits, and pretty much anything that you would add garlic
or onion to, like scrambled eggs, potatoes, dips, and beans.