I was going stir crazy last week, so I decided, despite the frigid spring temperatures, to go for a little walk and check on my not so secret spot for wild ramps. It is still very early in the season, but I figured a status update would be beneficial, and I needed something to do. Lincoln was all in for a walk by the river, so off we set, basket and digging tools in hand.
Ramps are a type of leek that populate forest floors and river valleys. They are difficult to domesticate, but are abundant in the wild in some areas of the United States. They have a mild onion flavor and are simply delicious.
My little spot is right on the side of a dirt road that is a very popular walking spot, even more so now that everyone is seeking escape from confinement. In fact, it is so close to the road that I hesitate to go when I might be seen, for fear of others finding my spot and cleaning out all the ramps. This type of secrecy is symptomatic of a condition is called ‘locaphobia’. It is very common in foragers, and causes all sorts of subterfuge and erratic behavior. (Just kidding, I made that up. Not the condition, but the name for it. The condition is very real.)
The ramps were there. I made my introductions, asked permission of the grove, and ‘heard’ an assent. (This hearing, I’ve learned, is a skill that develops with time). They were small, but there seemed to be plenty. Baby spinach, baby carrots, baby lettuce, why not baby ramps? As I was on my knees in the dirt, a meanderer ambled along and asked me what I was doing. I tried to hide behind a tree, but he wasn’t fooled. “I’m harvesting baby ramps” I mumbled. “What are they?” he wanted to know, so I told him. He said “Wow. Free food.” I agreed and he went on his way.
When I had enough, I offered a thank you and packed up my things. As I was walking back to the car I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. The whole hillside above where I harvest was covered with wild ramps. Acres were blanketed with them. They were everywhere. Amazed, I suddenly wished I had someone to show.
I thought of the man walking. Something about our conversation niggled at me. Free food, he had said. Was it really free? Certainly no one had to pay for it. But free has connotations of disregard, of lack of value, and possibly of neglect. Free comes without conditions. That didn’t feel right. The ramps weren’t free, they were a gift. A gift denotes a relationship. A gift involves generosity, caring and even love. A gift requires a response. The forest gives to us. It’s up to us to give back.
The ramps I collected require not only gratitude, but compassion, thoughtfulness, protection and respect. I want my relationship with the earth to be reciprocal, not based in abuse or greed. As such, I never take the first. I never take more than half. I always say please, and I always say thank you. Just like I would do with a friend.
I decided to make a quiche with my ramps. The very flexible recipe follows.
Ingredients for Ramp Quiche
1 bunch of ramps, washed and dried.
I TBSP butter
8 eggs (or 6 if that is all you have)
1 cup milk (or half and half)
1 cup sour cream (or other dairy like ricotta, yogurt, cottage cheese)
1/2 cup Bisquick
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheese)
1 pie crust.
Roughly chop the ramps an saute them in the butter. Allow to cool.
Mix the next 5 ingredients and add the ramps. Pour into the pie crust and bake at 350 for 1 hour. It’s not necessary to preheat the oven. Enjoy!