Maine May Musings – Wild Ramps

These beautiful spring days have us out and about in the back woods of Maine enjoying the wonders of nature. And perhaps foraging.

If you’re lucky and know a little bit about foraging, you may be able to identify a low growing, broad leafed plant, the ramp, a member of the onion or allium family. Sporting just a few broad green leaves and a white or reddish stem, the taste is reminiscent of garlic and onion.. but somehow more sublime. Their taste raw is far more pungent than when cooked. The ramp stands in nicely in quiche , pesto or a compound butter. Sometimes you can spot them in a Farmer’s market. Or a Trader Joes, which its where I got the ramps I used to start my own bed of them! They cannot be farmed, so they are a true wild food .

Ramps are not as prolific in the wild in Maine as they once were. In fact, they’re now protected. So it’s important to note that when foraging anything, never take it all. If we want all the gifts of the woods in the beautiful State of Maine to continue to thrive, we must never be greedy. Conservation begins with every foraging event. Take care to not harvest the root of the plant, but cut some of the leaves to maintain the plants viability.

Here’s the good news… ramps are easy to grow IF you happen to have a spot with fertile, moist soil near a stream lined, with hardwood trees. My wild ramps are coming along splendidly after two years of uninterrupted growth, as you can see in the picture. Once they flower, the leaves disappear and they’re harder for a novice to ID.

Because I am obsessed with the ramp’s flavor, and yet am loathe to use mine fully, I take just one leaf per plant to make my friend Charlotte Davenhill’s famous salted ramp butter. The recipe may be seen on our Seasonal Recipes section of this website.

A crusty loaf of bread and fresh ramp butter … Absolutely decadent.