Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Taming of The Ramp

What's the big deal with ramps?

Well, first off, they're pretty delicious in a familiar but very different way to their lily cousins. Nary a combination of garlic, scallion, and leek could ever quite match the wild musk that fills your head when you chomp down on a ramp. If the onion family were a line of colognes, then the ramp would be Sex Panther by Odeon. Or maybe even BK Flame. Needless to say, pretty powerful stuff.

But that's not all.

Above baby ramps, wafting their musky scent up through the early spring earth.

Ramps have cleverly made themselves scarce, thereby increasing demand. They have a very short season (only about six weeks in the spring) and they have the reputation for being uncultivable. The limited season situation is true, and seemingly unavoidable. But the theory of cultivability is a nasty rumor spread, no doubt, by those who could benefit from ramp scarcity: money-hungry farmers.

I can't get too upset at farmers and foragers for wanting to, well, ramp up their prices, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be this way. You, too, can grow your own ramps. All you'll need are some ramps to get started with, and a sugar maple or oak tree close to a wet, swampy area in the Eastern United States. Not too much to ask, really.

Ramps reproduce two ways, lucky bastards. They flower and go to seed, like most plants. Those seeds then drop and make new plants. But you'll have lots of trouble finding ramps seeds to plant. Ramps also reproduce by way of bulb offsets. This is the key to your future ramp garden. When you buy ramps at the farmers' market, make sure they come with the roots attached.

Before you cook with the ramps you've procured, remove the bottom 1/2-inch of bulb, keeping the roots attached. Store them, over night, covered by room temperature water. The next day, plant them in the damp soil around your eastern oak or maple and then forget about them for a year.

Or, spend the next eleven months dreaming about the ramps and their sacred scent of desire, like I do.

I planted six ramp bulbs two years ago. Last year six ramps popped up in early April. I ate them, leaving the bulbs in the ground. This year, I've found eleven so far. With any luck, I'll have twenty by next year. Now, you can do it too, tiger.

The swampy spring soil helps them reproduce, like gremlins, but stinkier in a good way.


  1. Love ramps. And I love them more now that they will forever be associated with "Sex Panther."

  2. Hey Ian, just wanted to let you know that I bought ramps last year at my local specialty market with the roots attached. I planted them underneath an apple tree in a somewhat swampy area. Last week I checked the spot and there they were, their lovely green leaves popped up and spread out. I've put protective fence around them, since I didn't know if deer liked to munch on them--any idea if I can remove the fencing?
    Miss you, Alexis

  3. Deer love ramps. And I love deer, especially ramp-flavored deer. Keep the fence up so that you're the one who gets to eat them!
    Miss you too!

  4. I've heard they're good with pasta. (Perhaps a creamy type sauce?)

  5. Anon: Yes, it's true. See here:

  6. Hi Ian!
    I stumbled apon your blog online... I was seaching how to butcher a chicken and I found your site and thought, this guy knows what he's talking about! Anyway, I need your help. I'm hosting a party and want to impress/ gross out my guests by serving cow tongue. Can you suggest prep method?