Ramps!

I had never eaten a ramp until I moved to the farm, and once I was here it still took a couple years before I figured out where they grow. Ramps employ a very clever strategy to harvest their yearly allotment of energy. By being just about the first thing to grow in the spring, they can get plenty of sun despite growing on the floor of a deciduous forest, and between the natural mulch of the leaves and the shade later in the year, they have limited competition.

However, this means they need to make the most of their window. It won’t be long before the trees start leafing out, at which point the ramps go dormant. Because they grow for such a short time, they take between five and seven years before they are ready to reproduce, which they can do either by flowering or splitting off a new bulb. The latter method is more effective, so they commonly grow in dense colonies ranging from a couple dozen to thousands upon thousands of individual plants.

Ramps are easy to over harvest - I’ve read no more than ten percent can be removed if a patch is to maintain its numbers - but we have so many on the farm that I’m not worried about killing them off. I usually wait until they’ve fully leafed out, but this year I felt justified in making an exception.

I always appreciate their fresh, vibrant flavor, but today, after having eaten only frozen kale and green beans for nearly four months, I am savoring every bite. I cooked them with some scrambled eggs for lunch, but I’m really excited for tomorrow, which is when we get our pigs back from the butcher. I doubt it’s possible to eat enough ramps and bacon to get bored of the combination, but I’m going to give it a try.

-Garth

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