It’s ramp season

Can you smell it? That hint of onions on the air? It can only mean one thing – it’s time for ramp season.

Ramps are one of the first greens to appear in the spring in the eastern United States and are cousins to other plants in the Allium family – leeks, onions, and garlic. Enthusiasts describe their flavor as somewhere between the pungent heat of garlic and the tamer scallion. Look at the menu on any farm-to-table restaurant in the Hudson Valley this spring, and you’re likely to see ramp scrambled eggs, ramp pizza, and ramp butter.

Ramps do not take to cultivation readily, and most must be wild-harvested. Unfortunately, their popularity has also been their downfall, and ramps are now in danger of being overharvested. Because of this threat, CLC does not allow ramp harvesting at any of the public lands we care for. We encourage foraging for over-abundant weedy plants like garlic mustard (which has a flavor somewhat similar to ramps), young sprouts of Japanese knotweed, or dandelion.

How can you forage safely and responsibly?

  • Learn about the original inhabitants of the land you are on. The North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems puts it best “To put it simply, there would be no foraging without the ancestral knowledge and cultural history of the Native people in your region. Before collecting any wild foods, research the Indigenous peoples whose land you’re on, and learn how you can contribute to their wellbeing. Many tribes have their own websites with ways to donate or volunteer, but you can also support national movements towards Food Sovereignty, Indigenous rights, and the Land Back movement.”
  • Be careful. Know where you’re heading out to forage, what potential hazards may be present (hello, tick season!).
  • Be certain. Don’t harvest anything unless you’re absolutely sure what it is. Consider taking a class or heading out with a more experienced forager at first.
  • Stay on trails as much as possible. Don’t get so excited about the plant you’re picking that you crush several in your effort to get to it.
  • Focus on over-abundant plants. Sure, ramps are delicious! But what’s more delicious? Not wiping out an entire species.
  • Harvest responsibly. Robin Wall Kimmerer beautifully describes The Honorable Harvest in her book Braiding Sweetgrass:

The guidelines for the Honorable Harvest are not written down, or even consistently spoken of as a whole—they are reinforced in small acts of daily life. But if you were to list them, they might look something like this:

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.

Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others.
Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.

More resources about foraging:

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