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Ramp Hunting 101


Ramp Hunting 101

Ready to dig for wild edible plants and create a flavorful dish all your friends will love? Ramps are a tasty addition to many springtime recipes. ACE Adventure Resort will be showcasing a ramp filled menu on May 1, 2021 at the second annual Ramp It Up Fest. There is lots to know before you hit the woods and start looking for these yummy plants though. Where will you find this wild edible plant? How will you dig for them? What recipes are best with ramps? Find out what you need to know to start harvesting and cooking with ramps.

Patch of ramps for ramp hunting blog

The Wild Onion

Allium Tricoccum or Ramps, also called a wild leek, are a member of the onion family. They are nutrient dense, and high in vitamins C, A and K1, as well as high in the mineral magnesium. These plants have been harvested for thousands of years by Native Americans in North America. Ramps grow as far south as the state of Georgia, and as far north as the province of Quebec during the spring months. Fun fact, the City of Chicago gets its name from the Miami-illinois Native American word “Shikaakwa ” meaning strong and pungent plants and ramps were frequently harvested in the Chicago area by these Native American Tribes.

When to Find Ramps

Ramp season is short in West Virginia, so let’s talk about the time of year that is best for ramp hunting. If you want to have a successful harvest there are a few things to consider like when to start looking.  Nature can offer some indicators in Mid-March such as when the crocuses are blooming. Another sign that these tasty plants may be available is to watch for the wild redbud trees to begin blooming. The season typically lasts for 5 to 6 weeks ending in early May.

Conservation, Guidelines and Regulations

Ramps are bulb dividers, rhizomes, like ginseng, and are very sensitive to mass-harvesting. After harvesting them, re-cover the area dug up with leaves to protect the remaining roots. Wild leek plants take 5 to 7 years to produce seeds, so everyone needs to be aware of this if they want to come back to the patch year after year for this springtime treat.

Tip -Always ask permission from the property owner before going to private land and familiarize yourself with the local guidelines and regulations for ramp harvesting. Once you have identified a wild leek patch, you will want to assess how many there are.  Most folks I spoke with said they have a 5% and no more than 10% rule for sustainable ramp harvesting. In other words, if you find a patch of say 100 ramps, do not take more than 10 plants from the patch. The Monongahela National Forest does not allow commercial harvesting of wild leeks but does allow individuals to collect small amounts for personal use; individuals may not exceed 2 gallons per season.

Tools of the Trade

What do you need to hunt and harvest wild leeks? Harvesting ramps is an adventure unto itself.  There are some basics any respectable ramp hunter will need to be aware of, like what to bring on your harvesting mission. You will need a hand trowel to dig them out of the ground. A sharp knife will be needed to cut the bulb above the root leaving the distal basal end of the bulb and roots in the ground. This helps to maintain patches and ensure that your harvest doesn’t wipe out that ramp patch. Digging the wild leeks from the ground and leaving the roots in the ground is the traditional Native American Cherokee traditional method of harvesting. This technique has regained popularity to assist with long term sustainability. Also, don’t forget to bring a bag or basket to carry them home.

Cleaning Your Harvest:

Ramps need to be washed before cooking.  The soil and debris should be removed in a bowl of cold water.  It may require a bit of hand help to clean them thoroughly. Take the time to rub off any dirt and/or sand so that you may enjoy the wonderful flavor without any gritty or sandy texture.  Even if you purchase yours from the local farmers market you will want to make sure to wash them well before cooking.

Ramp Dishes – An Appalachian Favorite

The ramp recipes in Appalachia often reflect the spring forest harvesting season. Morel mushrooms and asparagus are also found this time of year and pair nicely with these tasty vegetables. A classic West Virginia spring breakfast is scrambled eggs with ramps, asparagus and morels. Wild leeks are a great addition to your chicken noodle soup during allergy season for a little extra immunity. Get creative and substitute ramps in any dish where you could use onions. The possibilities are endless and it’s all about trial and error to find that perfect recipe.

Ramp It Up – Saturday, May 1, 2021

Getting hungry? Ready to sample a few wild leek recipes? Then you need to make plans to come out to the 2nd annual Ramp it up Festival at ACE Adventure Resort, Saturday May 1, 2021. The chefs at ACE will be curating a wonderful selection of wild leek inspired dishes featuring wood-fired ramp & potato pizza, ramp meatloaf, ramp quiche, ramp o’roni rolls and more! Plus Long Point String Band and The Poor Taters will be taking the stage at The Lost Paddle and entertaining the smelly ramp loving crowd. Tickets are on sale now and available the day of the event at the door.


BY Chris Colin

Chris Colin is a raft guide, whitewater kayaker, active caver, and as Special Events Coordinator at ACE he manages, promotes, and executes special events like the Mountain Music Festival.