The appearance of the beautifully smooth leaves of springtime ramps, or spring onions, has confirmed that this endless winter has finally, well, ended. As the Northeast happily leaves behind the last cold days of the season, the muddy forest floors are starting to show some signs of color. Bits of green are popping up all around, and there is nothing more exciting than seeing the first patches of ramps form.
These delicious members of the Allium family are often the first prized wild edibles to appear after the snow has melted. Normally, this would mean we'd be enjoying ramps by mid-March, but this year we've had to wait until halfway through April. Ramps grow in thick patches in moist sandy soil with a rich layer of organic matter on top. Pay close attention to hillsides and along streams, you might even find some morels too! Ramps have long green leaves with stems that turn pink as they enter the ground. Identification is easy, as breaking off a piece of leaf and smelling the oniony scent is a dead giveaway.
The great thing about wild onion is that every part is delicious in its own way; the long leaves have a subtle peppery taste while the underground bulbs are like garlic and onion mashed together in one. The leaves are perfect for a springtime salad along with young dandelion leaves and diced field garlic. The bulbs can be sautéed, added to soups or risottos, or even pickled. While delicious, harvesting significant amounts from a single population can be damaging, so make sure to take only a few ramps here and there, or take just the leaves.
It's officially ramp season, and that means morels should be popping up soon too. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was starting to get cabin fever this winter, so pick up your foraging baskets and head for the woods!