Ramps are a harbinger of Spring. Often the first green vegetable after the long winter — and a healthy one at that — they are so beloved that many towns up and down Eastern North America celebrate a "Ramp Festival" upon their arrival. They have recently become a much-sought-after luxury item too, available for sometimes $25 per pound at high-end greengrocers from Brooklyn to Chicago (which actually got its name from the Algonquin word for ramps!). Yet for generations these were considered "peasant food," and they are typically foraged from the wild rather than cultivated. The main reason they are rarely grown is simply lack of patience: like other perennial vegetables, ramps from seed take years to reach full maturity. They also divide quite slowly. The rule of thumb when foraging a hidden, private patch of ramps is to only take — at most! — up to 1/7 of the plants each year, to allow for regeneration and maintenance of the patch. If a patch is being foraged by others, take even less. To be absolutely sustainable, a forager should only take the bright green, broad leaves (which are unusual for Alliums) and not disturb or remove the bulbs at all. Both the leaves and the pale, slender bulbs can be consumed though. Ramps have a milder, more delicate flavor than other wild onions, but are more pungent and flavorful than cultivated leeks or scallions. The best ramps boast notes of garlic as well
GROWING TIPS: At the suggestion of C. Dale Hendricks, who collected these seeds in the hills and dales west of Philadelphia, we keep these seeds in moist, winter-like conditions, sealed in a container with some potting soil. For shipping, your seeds will be placed in a ziploc bag with moist potting soil. Ramp seeds are typically "double dormant," which means they require two winters before germination. Sometimes they will germinate before winter, and the root will grow all winter, but the first leaves won't appear until Spring. Other times they will send out roots and shoots at once in the Spring. Dale says the best way to get these seeds to germinate soon is to keep them vacillating between cooler and warmer temperatures, such as by keeping them in the fridge for a few days, then removing them, and so on. In milder climates, such as the Southeast, you might want to simply plant them on arrival and let nature take its course. But even with Dale's expert treatment, these seeds may still take a year or more to germinate. Once they do, resist the urge to harvest any for a few years, and eventually you will be richly rewarded with a secret ramp patch of your own. For those who live in areas where this is a native plant, it is a great candidate for "guerilla gardening," or "reverse wildcrafting": find some good habitat, plant them, and keep coming back every year to check on them. Ramps are overharvested and therefore under threat across their range, so future generations will thank you.
NOTE: Due to limited seed quantity we have decided to not perform a germination test.