Ramps (aka wild leeks) are a big deal around here. Everyone praises them and eats them enthusiastically when ramp season arrives. So of course I had a great curiosity to try this popular delicacy, but not knowing where to look for them, I never had the chance to taste any.
Sometime last summer, I happened to mention my lack of ramp experience to a forester friend. And he happened to let slip that he knew a place very close by where they grew in abundance.
Great, I said. Where is it? That’s when he got somewhat cagey.
It could be that as a responsible guardian of the forest, he is wary of doing anything that might result in hoards descending upon a delicate forest area, damaging the local plant life, and over harvesting the ramp crop. Or maybe he just wants to keep the ramps all to himself.
In any case, I soon figured out that the gift of a bottle of homemade blackberry cordial was sufficient motivation for him to agree to take me to this special location the next time ramp season came around.
All through the dreary autumn and winter months I waited, but spring finally came again and with it, at last, the chance to see some ramps. One sunny afternoon, my accomplice and I met the forester at the appointed starting place. First, we had to swear on a stack of nature guides that we would not under any circumstances reveal the location of this special site to anyone. And then we set off.
As we rounded a bend, our eyes were met with a wondrous sight indeed. There on a steep, wooded hillside mottled with sunshine was a green blanket of ramps tingeing the air with a faint garlicky oniony smell.
The forester showed us how to dig just two or three bulbs from each clump, leaving the rooted ends behind. We gathered a small bunch and then headed for home.
As we left the area, we swallowed some special pills intended to erase all memory of the location from our minds. So, torture us as you might, we are completely unable to reveal the location of this sacred spot to anyone.
We did, however, arrive home with the ramps intact. We spread out the leaves to dry for future use in seasoning soups and stews. The sliced bulbs and stems made a great addition to a spinach quiche. Someday I may be lucky enough stumble upon some ramps again. I know there are lots of ways to eat them, and I look forward to future culinary experiments.