Spring forest floors in the U.S. Northeast are often covered with an Appalachian delicacy known by many as Ramps or Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum). For many generations they have been one of the most sought-after edible forest plants in the northeast because of their sweet taste, as well as their nutritional value – however, in many areas these plants have reached an “endangered status” and must be treated according to the local regulations that apply. Ramps are one of the first plants to emerge on the forest floor once the snow has melted and are easy to spot this time of year before the other plants “green up”.
These large patches are nearly an acre in size and were found in Webster County, West Virginia while the crew was working on a large timber inventory project.
AFTER CONFIRMING THAT THE HARVESTING OF THESE PLANTS IS ALLOWED UNDER YOUR LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS, please consider taking these sustainable harvesting steps:
ONE LEAF PER PLANT: Harvest only the leaves and leave some ramps fully intact. Rather than cutting off all the leaves from a bulb, take only one leaf per plant. This will leave a leaf for photosynthesis, allowing the plant to continue to grow and reproduce (without any leaves, the plant could go into dormancy). Digging up whole ramps not only reduces ramp population and prevents reproduction, but a disturbance to the soil disrupts its ecology and lets invasive plants become established
LEAVES ONLY PLEASE: Maintaining our ramp supply will require a transition to a “leaves-only” approach. Ask your ramp vendor to consider changing their practices to those described above so that ramps will grow for years to come. Also, consider that we need to compensate responsible harvesters fairly for maintaining the growth of ramps in their region by paying a price for the leaves as if the root is still attached.
GROW THEM: We can continue to enjoy ramps while allowing them to proliferate in the wild. Ramps can be cultivated, either by growing plants from seed or by transplanting bulbs.
(More details on sustainable practices can be found here: https://unitedplantsavers.org/ramps/)
Note: In New York Allium tricoccum var. burdickii is listed as endangered, and harvesting is forbidden. (http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/plant.aspx?id=1828) Please check with your local natural resource department for rules and regulations specific to your area before harvesting ramps!
As always, if you have timber you may be interested in selling, and want a long-standing professional forestry firm representing your best interests in the process, please don’t hesitate to call any of our FORECON offices. Our foresters would be very happy to speak with you about the markets, and more importantly, your goals and objectives for your land.