Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ramp it Up!

I'm so excited. It's Ramps season! Yippee!

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, don't panic. I only became acquainted with Ramps last spring when I saw a gazillion people at the Union Square farmers market hovering over a teeny table full of green, leafy things. They are in fact wild leeks that have a very short early-spring season and grow from Georgia to Quebec. They have a very pungent onion smell and are wonderful sauteed with butter and mushrooms or eaten raw in salads. And they are so pretty! White bulbs, a dark purple stem and deep green, succulent leaves. Restaurants all over the city suddenly have salads and mains incorporating Ramps and you have to take advantage quickly because they disappear as fast as they came.

The only problem is because they are wild, you cannot replant them. The growing interest in wild and locally-foraged plants has led to environmentalists complaining that our over-indulgence of this delicious wild leek has damaged the local Ramp populations, which in turn could harm the environment. Ramps only grow in damp areas, usually close to running water, so they must have some natural purpose. But with the rate that farmers are harvesting them during spring, there is a concern that the natural patches are dying out. Quebec and areas of North Carolina and Tennessee have banned harvesting them. Here, closer to Manhattan, conservationists are urging farmers to harvest sustainably. The point is, Ramps have been a part of cooking here for the past 300 years. Let's make sure we have them for another 300. So enjoy them, but don't hoard them.

Jennifer May for the New York Times

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