“Ramps” – Wild Leeks are the Best Wild Food to Forage in Early Spring | Boston Food Photographer

In the spring, many seasoned gourmet chefs get excited over cooking the most flavorful plant foraged from the forest: ramps. Learn how this intriguing plant sparks controversy and delicious meals at the same time!

What are ramps?

Ramps are also called wild leeks. It is a plant that can be found in scattered bunches throughout the woods of Eastern United States. It’s not just any plant, though. For many, the presence of ramps in the woods is a joyful sign of spring. When the weather is warm in April or May, but nothing is growing in the garden yet, you can be sure to find ramps growing somewhere. 

Ramps taste like strong garlic or garlic chives when eaten raw or blanched for a pesto. When cooked, ramps are similar to spinach but with a very subtle garlic flavor that isn’t as strong as when eaten raw. 

The reason why chefs love ramps so much is because of its flavor and texture. Chef Brian Paszko of Seed to Plate Hospitality loves making Grilled Ramp Salsa Verde as a topping on steak. Read about more chefs and their favorite ways to cook them.

Why are ramps so valued?

Wild leeks are so sought after because of its limited availability. They can be harvested in a short time frame of a matter of weeks before all the leaves come out, so usually mid-April to May. Once the weather gets too warm, other wild plants take over, and the canopy of tree leaves form reducing sunlight. 

Because of this limited time frame, ramps are typically priced higher per pound at even $20-$30 per pound. 

Foraging Ramps "Responsibly"

Every year, people will scold others on social media for harvesting ramps with the bulbs. Indeed, this is known as “ramp shaming” in the foraging world. The USDA recommends to harvest only one leaf out of each plant. “They” say that you will “over-harvest” and kill the ramp population. However, there has been evidence of flawed research in the past, and this expert forager debunks advice from “ramp shamers” here in this Youtube videoI recommend anyone foraging for ramps to watch this video. 

Having some educational background in ecology, I can say that it is true that some plants need harvesting for proliferation. Ramps are no exception. For hundreds of years, ramps have been foraged by Native Americans and when the entire bulb in a clump is removed, it allows plants & bulbs to grow larger for food production in the following year. 

In locations where ramps are literally covering an area of the forest, it is recommended that it is better to dig up and remove a few whole ramps within a hands-width clump. This way, it allows the remaining ramps to grow larger and produce more seedheads in the fall. 

If you’re concerned about backlash from people, then you’re better off cutting off just the leaves instead. But if you care about being “responsible”, watch this video for some deeper insight into the life cycle of this plant. 

Photography by Ling Messer, Styled by Food Stylist Catrine Kelty

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Meet Ling, the photographer

Connecticut native. Idaho graduate. Previous Oregon resident. Cowgirl-turned-photographer.

Story-telling photography business owner since 2013. Videographer since 2018. Photography with artificial studio lighting or God’s sunshine.

Wife, dog owner, and friend of many dogs and people.

Have an upcoming project for a client? Let’s chat. Whether it’s Zoom, phone, email, or in person over wine or coffee, I’m game. 


Ling Messer



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