Ramp Sustainability 101
Ramps, or Allium tricoccum are a native woodland wild leek that can be found in rich deciduous cove forests during the springtime in the eastern United States. Improper and unsustainable harvesting practices are damaging populations in many states at a rapid rate. Luckily, with a bit of education, some seed planting, and some patience, we can help preserve, restore, and create large healthy ramp patches for ourselves, and our future generations.
Ramps are broadly distributed in Eastern North America from the Southern Appalachians to Southern Quebec, and are a very significant food to the native people inhabiting the range in which ramps grow. Although ramps have been eaten for thousands of years, the harvesting practiced by native tribes preserved the integrity of the patch. By leaving the roots in the ground and not disturbing the rhizome, patches would continue to come back year after year. By returning to these practices and educating ramp pickers, and by planting our own ramp patches and helping propagate the species, ramps again can become an abundant sight in our forests each spring.
Sustainable Ramp Harvesting Practices
- Never harvest more than 10% of any given patch in any given season
- Leave Roots / Rhizome in the ground to regrow. Snap or cut bulb. If you do dig up the roots / rhizome, save them to replant!
- Leave plants at highest elevation to reseed patch through gravity
- only thin out mature plants with 2-3 leaves from dense clumps
- leave young and one leafed plants alone completely, or areas where ramps are sparse.
- vary what ramp patches you harvest from yearly
- Restore over-harvested patches by reseeding and educating
PHOTO BY: NATALIE DECHIARA
We have added ramp seeds to our store, and yes, you can grow them in a regular garden too! If you are wanting to help establish a new patch of ramps, or help regenerate an old, planting by seed is one of the easiest methods to re establish, or establish ramps in a given area. With proper conditions and a little patience, in about 5 years (sometimes even less!) you will have your own patch to harvest from, and to share with the future generation. This year we have over 16,000 ramp seeds that we will be sewing, selling, and sharing with our communities, in an effort to be proactive about our love for ramps! As long as you are educating and practicing sustainability, there is no reason that we should feel guilt about correctly and reverently harvesting ramps for our tables. Ramps are hands down one of our all time favorite foods and each year we gleefully look forward to ramp season. Additionally We have added a link to NC State Extensions ramp planting article in our menu under the “Log, Planting & Mushroom info” for anyone looking for a handy reference on how to best start your ramp patch.
A quick word of caution: When ramps are in their youngest stages, they can have some toxic frequently mistaken others, or look-a-likes. Please always to be 120% sure of what you are eating, and when in doubt, ask someone who knows!
Ramp Growing Basic Guidelines
- Sow ideally in late summer / fall in rich well draining soil. However, you can sow them in the spring as well.
-pull back leaves and spread them onto the soil. replace leaf litter, about 2 inches onto dirt.
- plant on the downside of large fallen logs and rocks. The logs will help hold moisture and create a desirable microclimate for the baby ramps to thrive.
-If you are planting in the wild, choose areas that are in deciduous forest. If planted at the top of a slope, gravity will help propagate the ramps downwards as the patch matures. Look for areas with poplar, sugar maple, toothwort, Dutchman's breeches, and morels. These are all plants that often grow in the same areas that you naturally find ramps.
- Ramps can be picky, but we know lots of people growing them right in a corner of their garden. Just make sure the soil is rich, well draining, and has some decent sunlight exposure. see the NC State Extension article for full details.
- Have patience. You should see your ramp seeds you plant this year first emerging around April of 2024. They won't look like much more than grass, but each year they will grow larger and spread, and before you know it you'll have your own ramp patch established for you and your future generations.
PHOTO BY: NATALIE DECHIARA