How to plant and grow ramps (Allium tricoccum)

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Ramps, Allium tricoccum or Allium tricoccum, var. burdickii, also known as wild leek, is native to the mountains of eastern North America. They can be found growing in patches in rich, moist deciduous forests from the far north of Canada, west of Missouri and Minnesota and south to North Carolina and Tennessee.

In early spring, the ramps send broad, smooth leaves, like the lily-of-the-valley, which disappears in the summer before the white flowers appear. The bulbs have a pleasant flavor of chives with a strong garlic aroma.

As one of the first plants to emerge in the spring, the ramps were traditionally eaten as the first “greens” of the season. They were considered a tonic because they provided the necessary vitamins and minerals after the long winter months without fresh vegetables.

Ramps plant
Ramps plant

Traditions have evolved around the annual harvest and preparation of this spicy plant. In all the mountains of the eastern United States, including many counties in western North Carolina, they are held off annual spring ramp festivals.

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These festivals are important tourist attractions and are actively promoted by the communities in which they take place. The tremendous volume of ramps consumed at these parties is collected in the forests. In many areas, intensive annual harvesting is seriously damaging wild ramp populations.

Studies in Canada and Ohio have shown that ramps are very sensitive to the way they are harvested. Years ago, scavengers took only a small number of lamps from a population. Now, the demand for ramps is so great that the entire population is often harvested.

Ramps are now very popular with consumers. Ramps are served in restaurants, sold in supermarkets, and are sought after by chefs and cooks from all over the country. This created a growing demand for large, consistent supplies of wild plants.

Therefore, in an effort to conserve native populations and meet growing demand, ramping is strongly recommended. Collecting easily accessible concentrated plant ramps would not only benefit festival participants, chefs, and consumers but would also create a new marketable product for the commercial producer.

Native populations would be allowed to regenerate and multiply as the ramps gained recognition and popularity among consumers.

Since almost all of the ramps consumed are extracted from wild populations, information on the growing ramps is very limited.

For many years we have been conducting research on the development of efficient, practical and sustainable ramp production practices. The practices described in this publication are based on our research, personal experiences and producers experienced ramps in the mountains of the Appalachians.

Where to plant Ramps

The ramps grow naturally under a canopy of beech, birch, and maple and poplar forest. Other forest trees under which the ramps will grow include the chestnut, linden (walnut), walnut and oak. A wooded area with any of these trees present provides an ideal location for planting a ramp crop.

Areas that host trillium, toothwort, nettle, black cohosh, ginseng, bloodroot, trout lily, bellwort and mayapple should be suitable for growth ramps. If there is no forest area available for growing ramps, a shade structure can be erected over the planting site.

Choose a well-drained location with rich, moist soil and rich in organic matter. Soil moisture is an important environmental factor influencing the germination of the seeds, the rate of seedling emergence, survival and growth rate of plants.

For ramps to germinate, grow and survive, adequate humidity must be maintained during all seasons, not just during the active growing season. Note that the ramp’s growth period is limited to just a few weeks in the spring, during which time the plant depends on having adequate light, moisture and nutrients to survive.

In the southeastern United States, ramps begin to grow rapidly in March and early April in cool, shady areas with moist soil and an abundance of litter or other decomposed organic matter.

The plants produce new leaves from March to April, which die with increasing days and increasing temperatures. In June, after the leaves die, a flower stem appears. The flower blooms in early summer and the seeds develop in late summer.

The seeds ripen in a leafless stem and finally fall to the ground to germinate close to the parent plant. The timing of these events is often delayed at high elevations and locations in northern North Carolina and Tennessee.

How to plant and grow Ramps (allium tricoccum)

Ramps can usually be grown from seed. But you can also transplant them, or start new plants from pieces of root, in a similar way as you would grow green onions from kitchen scraps. When propagated from seeds, plants need at least five years to reach a size that can be harvested under ideal conditions.

Where to plant Ramps

It is more likely to take about seven years. If you buy or purchase vegetable bulbs, expect to be able to harvest your first crop in three to five years.

Seed

The seeds of ramps require hot and cold stratification, which means that require a heat period before the seed begins to develop, followed by a cold period to burst the outbreak. In the wild, ramp seeds break dormancy in autumn, when conditions are hot and humid, and begin to develop during the cold winter. The seedlings appear in the spring when the conditions heat up again.

In other words, it can take six months for the seeds to germinate. And if the initial period of heat is not pronounced enough, the seedlings cannot leave the soil for 18 months after planting.

You can plant your seeds outdoors in the fall or spring. Seeds planted in autumn tend to perform better than those planted in spring, with a higher germination rate and higher plant survival rate. For autumn planting, remove any leaves from the top of the soil and use your rake to loosen the first few inches of soil. Gently press the seeds into the soil, 10 to 15 centimeters apart. Cover with two inches of wet mulch.

If you choose to plant in the spring, you will need to place the seeds for a period of hot and cold stratification to ensure germination. To do this, fill a bag with moist vermiculite and place the seeds inside. Let them rest at room temperature (60-70°F) for 60 days.

Then close the bag and refrigerate for 90 days. Its objective is to sow the seeds outdoors immediately after the soil thaws, when temperatures are around 45-65°F during the day.

Do the necessary research or check your gardening diary to determine when average local temperatures have started to rise in recent years and count down to determine when to start stratifying your seeds. Prepare your garden bed and press the stratified seeds into the soil, 10 to 6 inches apart. Cover with two inches of wet mulch.

Transplants and division

Most nurseries do not sell ramps bulbs or transplants. But you can pick a bunch from a neighbor or from another part of your garden if you’re already growing.

To transplant ramps, carefully collect a cubic foot of soil from the edge of the ramp terrain with a shovel. Plant the entire duster in a separate preparation area. To divide the established plants and give them room to breathe, dig a small group of ramps and separate half of the bulbs.

Plant them in a new location 10 to 6 inches apart and put the others back in the soil. If you can find ramp lamps on sale, plant them in February or March immediately after purchase. If you can’t plant them right away, you can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Root jet recovery

If you buy ramps to cook at the supermarket or at the farmers market and they have a lot of stuck roots, you can grow new plants. When preparing to eat, cut the bottom half of the bulb with the roots stuck. Soak them in water overnight. Then plant them outside on a prepared bed 10 to 15 centimeters apart, cut side up.

How to grow Ramps

  • Ramps are not difficult to care for after you have grown them, so there is no reason to harm native populations to repair your ramp.
  • You will find them growing wild in cold, shaded areas. They prefer a well-drained and moist clayey soil, enriched with abundant organic matter.
  • A vertical close-up of Allium tricoccum with large green leaves and purple stems growing in nature on a soft-focus background.
  • You will need to recreate these conditions at home if you want your ramps to thrive. The north-facing slopes on your property are ideal because they generally have a more shaded and cooler microclimate than other areas.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a natural forest or grove available on your property, take advantage of this.
  • Ramps are a particularly smart choice if you want to explore growing a food forest, as they work well under the shade of large trees where other plants will not grow.
  • If you are looking for a place to plant a ramp on your property, keep an eye out for apples, trout lilies, nettles, ginseng, black cohosh, and trill.
  • These plants can indicate the perfect place for growing ramps, as they have similar requirements.
  • If you don’t have a wooded area available, you can build a shade structure to protect your plants. A shade on an elevated bed is preferable, as this will allow you to control the soil, drainage, and cover easily.
  • To create a raised ramp, build a 10 cm high structure and cover it with marijuana tissue. Ramps do not have deep roots, so there is no need to create a deep bed. Check out our DIY hanging bed guide for more tips on how to build your own.
  • They prefer a soil pH between 5.0 and 6.5. Not sure what kind of soil you have? Do a soil test.   
  • Ramps that grow in nature favor soil with high calcium content so enrich the soil with 180 kg of plaster per 1/10 acre bed or fill your pot with good quality soil that has been modified with calcium.
  • Plants that received the highest levels of calcium and the lowest soil pH performed best in North Carolina State University tests.
  • After planting your seeds or bulbs, water them well.
  • One of the coolest things about these plants is that, although you need to practice patience, they will grow in areas that could fallow, such as under deciduous trees. The best trees for planting ramps include: 
    • Beech
    • Birch
    • Hemlock
    • Hard walnut
    • Linden
    • Board
    • Oak

How long does it take for Ramps to grow

The ramps (Allium tricoccum) are a short spring that appears in the forest before the trees break the bud. They grow all their growth in just a few weeks a year, which means it can take about 7 years to reach maturity.

How to grow Ramps
How to grow Ramps

After 7 years of root growth, they begin to divide and form new plants. They also send seed stems, which sprout in June, after the leaves have absorbed a lot of sunlight.

Each seed head can last for months before the seed falls, and the seed can take more than a year to germinate. Once the seeds fall, they need a period of cold stratification before breaking dormancy and germinating.

For this reason, they are often sown in the fall, but there is no reason not to plant them after June.

The sheep need shade to grow, or they will be overtaken by the grass. They also need continually moist, but not swampy, soils. They are best planted where maples, beech, and hemlock grow, as these trees require similar soils and provide good shade coverage.

Is Wild Garlic the same as a Ramp

It’s called ramps here in America, although Europeans call it wild garlic. Anyway, Allium tricoccum is a coveted treasure for all the cooks who self-respecting in spring. He is so dear that in Hudson, New York, a whole festival is dedicated to him.

Garlic mustard leaves are only available in producer markets for a few weeks of the year, so you should buy them while you can. Here are some ways to taste the perfect taste of spring.

Are Ramps Poisonous

Ramps are not poisonous, but people can be confused with ramps of f ALSE hellebore due to having a similar appearance at the beginning of seasoon. The false hellebore (Veratrum) is a very poisonous plant that can be confused with a much appreciated wild food, wild leek or ramp (Allium tricoccum).

The false hellebore grows wild on damp soil in Vermont, usually in the same areas of the ramps, and the two may look especially similar early in the season.

The false hellebore grows from 60 to 2.5 meters in height with a thick green stem, large leaves with veins and hairy star-shaped flowers. Ramps, on the other hand, have no ribbed blades and smell like onion.

What does a Ramp taste like

Ramps are wild onions that grow during spring in eastern Canada and the United States. They are sometimes called wild leeks and taste like a balanced mixture of garlic and onions. The ramps look like chives, but they are smaller and a little more delicate and have one or two wide, flat leaves.

They have a stronger flavor than leeks, which usually have a mild onion flavor, and are spicier than chives. They are spicy, to say the least. Some people find the ramps absolutely delicious, so delicious that the civilized fought for the last bunches at the farmers’ markets.

Although ramps are a relatively recent food fad, with their popularity growing rapidly over the past 25 years, they have been around and enjoyed for centuries.

They have been collected by Cherokees for hundreds of years and have been a staple in spring in the Appalachian kitchens for decades. (In Richwood, West Virginia, where they grow abundantly, a local festival has been dedicated to ramps for the past 77 years.)

Where do wild Ramps like to grow

In nature, ramps grow in rich, moist forests that are dominated by deciduous tree species, such as maple, beech or oak. Soils with a pH closer to neutral (6.8-7.2) are more suitable for growth, so ramps are often found growing close to other wildflowers that prefer more alkaline soils, such as bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), trout lily (Erythronium americanum) and Dutch shorts (Dicentra cucullaria). To successfully grow ramps in the garden, similar growing conditions must be provided.

The perfect bed is in total or partial shade with highly organic and constantly moist soil and an almost neutral pH. The ramps are at home in a naturalized forest or shaded garden with lots of compost and leaf cover.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are found in eastern North America, from Georgia to Canada. They are easily recognized by their 1, 2 or 3 wide leaves, 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide and 4 to 12 inches long. The leaves appear in early April and last until mid-May.

The leaves have an elongated oval shape that narrows at one end. They resemble lily-of-the-valley leaves, although slightly thinner. Wild leeks have a flower stalk that tends to appear as the leaves wilt. The flowers are pinkish-white and the seed spreads close to the parent plant.

As the May temperatures get warmer, the leaves turn yellow and die. Look for ramps under the dense crown of the deciduous forest in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They usually meet as north-facing slopes.

What part of Ramps do you eat

Each part of the ramp can be eaten, from the white bulb or root to the red stems in the middle and the dark green leaves at the top. The leaves have the mildest flavor, followed by the stems, leaving the true ramp flavor found in the bulbs. Ramps can be eaten raw, as is, or added to a fresh salad, but remember that eating raw ramp bulbs is not for the faint of heart.

  • The Bulb: Is what most people are used to using. It looks like a very small onion. 
  • The Leaf: If you are lucky, you will get a beautiful bouquet of bright green leaves with a red vein in the middle. These are completely edible.     
  • The Stems: This is where most of the waste occurs. The stems between the leaves and the bulb can be a little hard, a little fibrous. You can cook whole ramps and eat them right.

Can I Regrow Ramps   

Yes you can regrow ramps by adopting these practices:

  • Gently dig out chipboard, removing some bulbs, but leaving others intact. Recreate the roots, the remaining bulbs, and any small bulbs for the next generation.
  • As soon as the plants start to bloom, collect the seeds in late summer and plant them in suitable places nearby. (Over time, the ramps pluck rhizomes and roots laterally and spread.)
  • If you buy kitchen ramps at the grocery store or farmers market and take care of many rootlets, you can regrow new plants.
  • When preparing to eat, cut the bottom half of the bulb with the roots stuck.
  • Soak them in water overnight. Then plant them outside on a prepared bed 10 to 15 centimeters apart, cut side up.
  • Ramps should be harvested in the spring, five to seven years after planting the seeds, and three to five years after planting the bulbs. You will know that the plants are ripe when their leaves reach a height of 15 to 20 cm.

Can you grow Ramps in a garden

Ramps can be grown from seeds, transplants or rooms. The ramps grow very slowly compared to other onion crops. Growing your own plants from seed is the cheapest way to add ramps to your garden, but it does require patience. It may take a year or more for the seed to germinate and another 7 to 10 years for the plant to reach maturity.

The seeds can be sown anytime the soil is not frozen, from late summer to early fall, prime time. The seeds need a warm, moist period to break the lethargy, followed by a cold period. If there is not enough heating after sowing, the seeds will not germinate until the second spring.

Therefore, germination can take between six and 18 months. Nobody said this was going to be easy. Be sure to incorporate a lot of organic matter found in the decomposing forest floor, such as composted leaves or decomposing plants.

Remove weeds, loosen the soil and sweep to prepare a good bed. Sow the seeds finely at the top of the soil and press them gently into the soil. Water and cover the seeds of the ramp with several centimeters of leaves to retain moisture.

If you are growing ramps by transplanting, plant bulbs in February or March. Place the bulbs 3 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. Water and cover the bed with 2-3 inches of composted sheets.

Ramp seeds have a dormant mechanism that must be broken to germinate. They must go through a prolonged period of cold and humidity to germinate. Planting the seed in the autumn exposes it to the necessary cold during the winter and it will germinate in subsequent growing seasons.     

A quicker way to make the seeds germinate is to pack them in moist vermiculite in a sealed plastic bag, store them in a room at room temperature for two to three months and then place them in the refrigerator for another two or three months.

After this treatment, the seeds can be sown in the spring. If you are not willing to wait years to harvest, ramps can also be purchased as bare roots and can be planted in the spring or fall. Although it may still be a few years before the ramps are large enough for harvesting, the results are more easily guaranteed.

Limited information is available on disease or insect pressures on the ramps. In North Carolina and Tennessee, Septoria leaf spot was observed on wild ramps and grown in gardens. Although the spot is ugly on the foliage, in reported cases it did not appear to cause lasting damage and did not adversely affect the performance of the plant in a study we conducted in 2001.

The long-term effects of the disease are unknown. The miner’s allium, Phytomyza gymnostoma (Loew) has been reported in ramps in the Northeast, especially in Pennsylvania. Investigations are underway on the severity of pest and management strategies.

In native populations, ramps tend to form large colonies or groups. Often, the bulbs are so widely spaced that other vegetation can barely penetrate the stands.

Harvesting methods include harvesting only the young leaves, digging all the bulbs in a flower bed, harvesting bulbs from part of a flower bed, or thinning a dense bunch by harvesting only the largest plants. Do not harvest bulbs until the plants have filled the place, have large bulbs, and have flowered.

If whole plots are harvested at the same time, it is recommended to have sufficient plots to allow for a rotation of 5 to 7 years. That is, to have a continuous harvest year after year, harvest only one fifth or one-seventh of your production area each year. When harvesting bulbs from part of the land, no more than 15% of the ramps must be removed.

If the thinning method is used, great care must be taken not to damage plants that are not harvested. Based on surveys of wild populations; harvests should be limited to 5-10% of the plants in each plot. Only harvest the leaves and let the lamp again to grow year after year is gaining popularity among consumers and collectors.

The tools for collecting ramp lamps vary depending on the person using them. A ramp “excavator” tool can be purchased or manufactured. This hand tool is the size of a hammer, with a long, narrow head similar to a hoe.

Other suitable tools include a garden hoe, a pickaxe, and an earth knife. For business operations, it is essential to have a tool that can be used comfortably all day. If you are picking leaves, you can use scissors or sharp knives.               

Can you freeze Ramps

Yes. You can freeze ramps with oil and without oil. Cooking some ramps with a little oil and then freezing them would turn a normal meal during the week into something special. Cut the white bulbs, reserving the green ones for another recipe. Sautee them in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt. Pack them in a container itself to the freezer as a wide mouth glass jar with lid freezer.            

You can also freeze simple ramps without oil, but you must first target them. Scald the trough bulbs in boiling water for 15 seconds before dipping them in an ice water bath. Pack them into the freezer and you’re done.

You can also preserve ramps in two other ways:

  • Pickled ramps: Stripping is the most effective way to make ramps stable on shelves for long-term preservation. Ramps are a low acid food and if you want to pack them, you can press them (more on that later) or you can chop them into something acidic, like vinegar.
  • Compound butter Ramp: Compound butter is one of the easiest ways to preserve green leaves. All you need is some good quality butter, ramp leaves, and lemon juice. Beat in a food processor and wrap in parchment paper. After a few hours, it will be solid enough to be unwrapped and cut for meals.

How do you sustainably harvest Ramps

The most sustainable way to harvest ramps is to cut just one leaf, letting the bulb and the second leaf continue to grow. This has less impact on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. Leaves, in my opinion, are the best part, anyway, and just taking leaves is the best way to ensure that the colony remains viable.

  • If you insist on picking bulbs, dig in a sustainable way – with a digging knife or a tick: 
  • Then carefully cut the lower third of the rooted bulb, leaving it in the ground. 
  • Carefully remove the dirt around the bulb, taking care to leave the roots on the ground. 
  • Remove enough dirt to expose part of the lamp so that you can see where to place the knife. 
  • Then cover the roots again with soil and let them grow the following year.

That’s all there is to dig. Be wise and don’t take more than you are going to use.

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