Pick Ramps Now
Inside the Outdoors, April 29,
2016

It’s true, the column is called, Inside the Outdoors, so it only makes sense that there is much to write about that’s not inside my home. There are plentiful growths outside that warrant attention.

Just the other day a fellow approached me and stated, “Hey, Pee Vee, why don’t you write about ramps.” Stupid me stated, “Where, down at Colonial Park or at the Conemaugh River handicap place in the park?”

I first got a disconcerting expression followed by a response, “No, the plants growing along the Loyalhanna Creek all the way from Sleepy Hollow down to Latrobe.

I have to plead ignorance in this case. I’m not up on the names of these beautiful creations. In this case, ‘beautiful’ refers to ‘wonderful eating products of the soil,” more so than what is seen with one’s eyes.

I have actually pulled wild leeks out of my garden and even eaten a few of them, but never knew of their relatives.

After doing a little research, I did learn ramps are a perennial wild onion that has to be foraged. It’s greatly in demand. “If one can find them, grab them,” one website stated.

So, according to doing things without the Encyclopedia Britannica, I Googled ‘ramps’ and learned the following.

One website stated, “Ramps have a pearly white tuber, burgundy stem and wide floppy green leaves that resemble lily of the valley.”

Another, www.eater.com, said, “Ramps are not leeks, nor are they scallions, nor are they exactly shallots. Ramps look like scallions, but they’re smaller and slightly morel delicate, and have one or two flat, broad leaves. They taste stronger than a leek, which generally has a mild onion flavor, and are more pungently garlicky than a scallion.”

“Ramps are wild leeks,” it was so stated from www.bonappetit.com, “foraged from shaded, woody areas. They are one of the first signs of spring. And one of the first edible greens to hit the markets.”

From www.wildedible.com, I learned, “Ramps (Allium tricoccum), or wild leeks, occur at higher elevations in Eastern North America from Georgia to Canada.”

According to the author of the article, “They are easily recognized.” Nothing is easily recognized unless one is given proper guidance.

In this case, the writer stated, “Ramps are easily recognized by one or two broad leaves measuring one to two and one half inches wide and four to twelve inches long.”

Here is something for all fishers to keep in mind. “Both the leaves and the bulbs of ramps can be eaten and both are delicious.” People who hate garlic will dispute that statement. The favor is described as having the characteristic of a combination of garlic and onion.” The gent told me the plant leaves an after taste of garlic. “Some people may not like that,” he stated.

“The most sustainable way to harvest ramps is by using a knife to gently move the soil from one side of the bulb. Then taking care not to dislodge the bulb and roots, cut the base off at the bulb leaving it with the roots in the ground. This will ensure new ramps will grow the following season.” That’s a perfect example of conservation of resources.

Wanting to use them in the kitchen, ramp bulbs and leaves may be diced and used just as one would use onions, green onions, leeks, chives and garlic, but they are much more potent. They can be used with pasta, eggs, chanterelles and other wild mushrooms, potatoes, stir fried and raw greens and pork. Some cooks have used them in spring soups, or “spared with asparagus.” They can be used various ways, “made into pesto and smothered on just about everything.”

It was suggested that one grill them whole, dunk them in a buttermilk batter and fry them whole or pickle them.

OK, I hope that gives one some insight into this wonderful plant. One thing’s for sure, if Punxsutawney Phil gives the ‘word’ that spring is just around the corner, be prepared to keep an eye out for ramps. Just as summer is not far behind after spring, ramps will be gone, as well!

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An elderly lady came up to me while I was selling fishing items at the Latrobe Indoor Vendors’ Market Tuesday at the Thomas Anderson American Legion Post 515, 1811 Ligonier St., Latrobe and stated, “I caught four trout the first day!” “On what?” I asked. Two seconds went by, and she exclaimed, “Hooks!” I asked once again, “No, on what?” She thought for a while looking all around and then stared right in my eyes and bellowed out, “Hooks!”

I guess I had it coming….


- Paul J. Volkmann
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