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Exploring Spring Edibles - May 9, 2023

Updated: Jan 24

Ramps: Allium Tricoccum

April and May are the months when our customers at the Hastings Farmers Market will ask about wild ramps, Allium tricoccum. While the gorgeous hills and riverbanks of Harlem Valley Homestead are indeed home to several secret and expanding populations, we do not harvest these plants for sale.

Historically, ramps have been both valued, as a Spring tonic and early green, and scorned, as a pest to be eradicated. This nutritious and odiferous Spring ephemeral once covered massive tracts of land. Chicago is reputedly named after the ramp, from "chicagoua" or "shikaakwa" meaning striped skink plant, a reference to their odor. "The king of stinkin' Appalachia" inspires widespread annual festivals. However, during the 19th century, European settlers cleared 60-80% of New England, deforesting and disrupting the established populations. Allegheny Leek Belt farmers actively sought to eradicate ramps, making room for other crops and pastures.

Most recently, our slow-to-establish populations have been hit hard by the current 'ramp craze' as well as persistent habitat loss. Today, ramp harvest is illegal in Quebec and parts of Appalachia, creating conditions for a black market. The scarcity paired with the recent social and culinary hype has created conditions where ramps can sell for between $10 and $30 a pound!

Let us remember that species exist in their own right, as part of a life-sustaining larger ecological web, and - most importantly - independently of our drastically fluctuating human values and media hype. If determined to forage or purchase ramps, thoroughly research responsible harvesting practices and go even further, spreading ramp seeds and bulbs to boost your local populations.Sarah will be leading a Foraging for Wild Edibles walk at Great Hollow Nature Preserve and Ecological Research Center on May 27th. Visit their website for more information.


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