11 Comments
founding

Thank you. If I had ramps I would heed the rant for sure.

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Thanks Hank - I bought fresh ramps just this afternoon in Northern California, but frankly I always question myself when I do because our back yard is a preserve for A. triquetrum. Personally I like them even more than ramps in the spring, the flavor is less aggressive and better suited in my mind to complementing spring dishes of peas, morels, and eggs, to the point that, well-washed and picked thorough, you really don't even need to blanche them (though they are great that way too). And they lend themselves very easily to partial separation leaving their comrades to grow for next year.

Supposedly Alain Ducasse would send for foraged loads of them from CA in the spring because they reminded him of wild onions he picked in the foothills of Southeast France as a child - no idea if that is true or not but it sounds like something he'd do!

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There is a wild onion patch that I harvested very sparingly for four or five years. The patch grew every year. One day I went to it and it was gone-completely dug up. I could not see a single onion. About two years later I saw a few. Last year (four or five years after that) I harvested a few. This year the patch is back to where I'll harvest maybe a dozen. Maybe. There are other patches, and other alliums. None have spread like this one, though.

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I read this before work today. On my drive out field site I found myself pondering about how I’ve never found ramps before. I am more of an opportunistic (as opposed to a deliberate) wild food gatherer. Wouldn’t you know I stumbled into several medium sized patches at our field site! Thanks for bumping ramps to the front of my brain, Hank. They may have gone unnoticed if I wasn’t already thinking about them.

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Would you say the large California patch of ramps is...rampant? :)

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founding

I really appreciate this, not least because I think that the //tending// aspect of foraging escapes a lot of people -- i.e.the idea that you can actually help the thing you're foraging to *increase* if you pay enough attention and put in a little extra effort.

It takes more time and conscious attention to actually pay attention to the size of the patch and the individual plants before harvesting and to replant the baby bulbs, instead of just grabbing some leaves and moving on, and some people who are excited about foraging but haven't been doing it super long never get taught that part at all. Even if you've heard the 10% rule or vaguely know about the Honorable Harvest guidelines, in the excitement of seeing a wild edible it can be easy to just grab it and not think about anything other than your delicious dinner. M Kat Anderson's incredible book Tending the Wild really changed my approach to foraging in exactly this way - she introduced me to the notion that foraging can *increase* if it is done conscientiously. (My sibling, who teaches mushroom foraging in Berlin, always throws the trimmings from the mushrooms they forage out into the wild patch in front of their house to help sporulate. Last year we found a huge crop of parasols springing up right there where they'd never been before!)

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Thank you for this. If only everyone would follow your lead! Education is the key, and people (sometimes) don't know what they don't know. Your 'rant' is more a tutorial which is most needed. In a native plant FB group which I follow, there are ongoing 'conversations' re: your approach, as some see vast patches and don't understand why others are advising limiting harvesting. Conversely, those who can no longer find patches don't understand why others could harvest willy-nilly. Sigh....

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As a fellow Minnesotan, I, too, have been enjoying a robust harvest of ramps the past couple of weeks on our property. Following the practices and "rules" that you have shared here, I have seen amazing growth of our ramp patches over the past few years. Thanks to selective harvest and replanting the roots / snipping the stems off above the bulbs, I can now just wander around the edges of our yard and can harvest dozens of ramps while preserving the beds for the future.

I love using them in as many ways as I can while they last (like your ramp risotto), sharing them with family and friends. Like so many outdoor endeavors where harvesting food for the table is key, ramp hunting gets me out in the woods before other outdoor activities like fishing really "ramp" up here in MN. For me, gathering ramps in this manner and utilizing them as a source of food epitomizes the best of land stewardship. Thanks for sharing your expertise and guidance for others to enjoy.

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I learned to forage as a kid, and my grandparents had rules: never take the first plant you see, never strip a patch, only take the biggest plants, replant the little ones, leave the pioneer plants to spread further, leave a few big old plants to set seed (or in the case of fungi, to drop spores). I heard that the early forest harvesters who gathered ginseng and golden seal learned to gather and replant seeds and plant back the top of the root to regrow.

They also taught me not to pick from roadsides or places that have been sprayed or are polluted. And to be very, very sure of identification for both plants and fungi since many edible ones have poisonous lookalikes. Which also raises another important point: if something looks like an onion but doesn’t have the onion scent, it is very probably poisonous.

We have Allium triquetrum, angled onion or threecornered garlic, as a weed here in Australia too. It is invasive, but delicious!

I still teach my grandparent’s lessons to my students nowadays.

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Hank the problem is there is so much demand from the public and how is someone to know that the person picking along the supply chain followed the practices that u espouse… in fact we have seen in pennsylvania and other places closer to nyc whole large ramp patches decimated over the past decade… as well as younger and younger ramps without barely even a bulb in whole foods. This is why we pick leaves. Its very clear to the consumer what our practice is and it is also what nordic and other europeans tell me they do.

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It is especially important to conserve Allium ursinum and similar wild garlics that are growing rarer. The leaves taste just as good and will grow back.

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