How to Pick Ramps

by Anne Maxfield on May 19, 2011

Accidental Locavore RampsRamps grow wild in the eastern United States and may also be known as wild onions. They appear in late winter to early spring and are generally foraged. While you can try to grow your own, it may take up to seven years from seed to harvest. Ramps are foraged in deciduous forests. If you decide to forage for them, the leaves look a little like lily of the valley, however they sure don’t smell like lily of the valley!

Ramps have broad, green oval shaped leaves going into a bright purple stalk and a white bulb. Their flavor is a cross between fresh garlic and scallions.

When buying ramps, only buy what you can consume in a day or two as they are highly perishable. Wrap them in damp paper towels and refrigerate them. Don’t wash them until you’re about to use them. They are often sautéed with bacon and potatoes and used as a side dish for meats. Think of using them as a trendy, local, replacement for scallions.

If you need some ramp trivia: the name Chicago comes from the Algonquin Indian word chicagoua which some historians say means wild onion or ramp.

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