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Wild leeks, or ramps, are a forager’s delicacy in Upstate New York, and spring is the prime season for these onion-like bulbs.
Ramps are most commonly found in the moist woodlands of the Northeast. The plants prefer to grow away from direct sunlight on north-facing slopes; they are unfazed by the cold temperatures in the shade.
Spring and early-summer are the best times to pick ramps, when their green, onion-scented leaves are growing. By July, the leaves are withered, leaving only a white flower in their place—beautiful, but not as delicious.
The early growing season of ramps was one of the reasons that they were so valued, going back to the times of the Cherokee Indians. Before refrigeration, ramps were the first greens available after several long months of surviving only on potatoes. Native Americans also used them medicinally.
As more and more foragers are becoming aware of the prevalence of leeks in our area, they are becoming a staple in many recipes, so consider picking a few leeks and putting them in a soup or a salad.
But forage sustainably, taking only 10% or less of mature plants in a patch, and harvest the same patch only once in 10 years (http://bit.ly/growlermag).
The Basket Historical Society preserves and presents the history of the Upper Delaware area. If you are interested in becoming a member or finding out more contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.