Get close enough to the forest floor and you can see them: ramps, one of the earliest edible plants. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE

Ramps-U-Pick offer a taste of these fleeting spring greens
Forest farming for ramps

| April 18, 2022

With the trees still bare, the spring sunlight catches patches of green among the brown leaf litter on the forest floor.

“Let your eyes get accustomed to it and you’ll begin to see them,” says Steven Schwartz, a forest farmer who runs Delaware Valley Ramps on his 10-acre farm near the Delaware River in Equinunk. Pa. He says they grow “anywhere and everywhere” on his patch, but they can be a finicky plant.

Forest floor ramps
By the side of the Delaware River, the forest floor here is home to a healthy crop of ramps, even though you can’t quite see them. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE

And yes, there they are: about 2-3 inches high — ramps, or more formally Allium tricoccum. Plant wizards will recognize that first name — Allium, a genus that includes hundreds of species, including onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives. It also includes lots of varieties of a pom-pom shaped flower.

Ramps taste like a cross between an onion and garlic. Early in the season, like now, they taste like spring onions, with the taste growing stronger as they achieve their full height of about a foot.

Ramps grow wild and are usually harvested by foraging, where you have the property owner’s permission.

The ramp is a welcome harbinger of spring as it’s the first real edible green thing to emerge. Lots of foodies have discovered ramps and wild ramps are prized by chefs to make ramp pesto and ramp hummus. How about ramp vichyssoise?

In summer, the ramp produces flowers to make green seeds in August and black seeds in September. Those seeds need a freeze/thaw weather combination to crack the shell of the seed and start germination. They can also reproduce by forming little bulbs around the old bulb.

Schwartz digs for ramps
Steven Schwartz digs, gently, for this year’s crop of ramps. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE

Delaware Valley Ramps has been selling wild forest edibles to restaurants and wholesalers. This year he’s opening his forest patch for foraging and making sure that people are trained in how to forage sustainably.

So now you can taste the unique flavor of ramps.

Schwartz is running Ramps-U-Pick starting next Saturday, April 22, and running through until May 15th. You can take home up to 3 lbs. of ramps.

Schwartz said, “If I put my mind to it I can harvest 5 lbs in an hour but, as an old guy, I can only do it 45 minutes per day.”

Don’t imagine the chaos of a pumpkin patch. This is a ticketed event(single ticket $60, family $120). And just in case that seems steep, if you wanted to, you could trek down to New York City to the Union Square Green Market and pay about $5 or $6 for a 1/4 lb. bunch, so $20-24 per pound. For three pounds, it’d be about $60 to $72. And you’d miss out on the challenge of foraging.

Schwartz and early ramps
Steven Schwartz holds a young ramp, just dug from the forest floor. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE

There will be three two-hour time slots every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 10 ticket holders for each time slot.

Each ticket holder will have a designated plot to work, with training and tools provided and will be able to taste some ramp treats such as pickled ramps, ramp hummus and ramp quiche with recipes to take home.

Check it out: http://www.delawarevalleyramps.com

Tickets: https://ramps-u-pick.eventbrite.com

Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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