13 May, 2010

Of Ramps and Ramsons

My tale of ramps begins last June when I spotted these flower stalks coming straight out of the ground with no evidence of leaves.
I had no idea what plant they were, and so I followed their maturation into the fall. The flower parts are very simple, I suppose “reduced” is the proper botanical descriptor. They are a greenish yellow in color and terribly difficult to photograph.

I think the photographs are more aesthetically pleasing and informative when changed to monochrome.

By the end of August, the seeds were setting, and what a surprise they were – lovely, shiny black spheres that are more interesting to look at than the flowers were.
I still did not know what they were, but kept searching with the help of the internet to try to identify it. Finally, I stumbled onto it – ramps (Allium tricoccum), also known as wild leek. Ramsons (Allium ursinum), also known as wild garlic, are a close relative found in the UK. The main difference in the 2 is that ramsons flower while the leaves are still present and the ramps don’t flower until the leaves are gone. And the flowers are more developed in ramsons.  For a picture of ramsons in bloom click here.  I have been reading a number of blogs from the UK that have recently mentioned ramsons.
Fast forward to spring 2010 and now we can see the classic lily leaves in the area where I first saw the flowers last year.

I harvested a few plants to try to cook. The bulbs are very delicate, almost translucent, and the stems are a lovely magenta.

They are quite pungent, even Max noticed. :-)
I decided to use them in an omelet for Sunday brunch along with morels, sweet baby red peppers, and Camembert cheese.
The omelet was delicious. The ramps (leaves and bulbs) added a sort of wild gamey flavor that went well with morels and cheese. I froze the unused part for future dishes.

Ramps grow in the Appalachian Mountains of the southeastern US and in the northern states up into Canada.  They do not tolerate hot weather.  Every spring throughout the Appalachian Mountains there are ramps festivals.  You can read more about the festivals and find links them here.


  1. Interesting story, beautiful photographs, but i think i d rather take a portion of that delicious omelet.
    Have a great day.

  2. Looks tasty, Wilma. I do like the smell of wild garlic.

  3. Great detective work Wilma, to find out what they were, and good pictures too, to illustrate the story.
    The omelette looks very tasty :)

  4. Costas, Emma, and Keith -- thank you for commenting. There will be a repeat of the ometlet this weekend; wish you could join us!


  5. Your post on Ramps and Ramsons is excellent and very informative.There are woods in our area that are carpeted white around about now with the Ramsons flowers in full bloom, they do smell appertizing with the smell of garlic but it can be a bit over powering and sickly.


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