Ramps are pretty, wild onions with a strong flavor.
Common Name: Ramps
Other Names: Spring Onion, Wood Leek, Wild Leek, Ramson (although the true Ramson is another, very closely related European/Asian species, Allium ursinum)
Russian name: Cheremsha
Scientific Name: Allium tricoccum
Family: Amarylidaceae, Subfamily Allioideae / Alliaceae (The Amaryllis and Onion Family)
Harvesting ramps is easy.
Ramps are a U.S. native species in the “onion” genus. This wild onion has a strong garlic aroma and a sweet, onion flavor. Both the large, flat, tender leaves and the small bulbs are edible, and the leaves are more mild tasting than the bulbs. Ramps are a spring ephemeral that grows well in moist, deep shade where they can naturalize into large colonies.
Native to eastern and central North America. Very popular in the Appalachian Mountains, but almost no cultivation.
North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania all have ramp festivals every Spring.
The city of Chicago was named by a 17th century explorer due to the fact that ramps grew thickly on the shores of Lake Michigan. The native Americans called ramps Chicagou.
A great collection of photos of Allium tricoccum.
USING THIS PLANT
Cooked – either/both greens and bulbs or whole plant. Cooking mellows the strong flavor. Stir fried, fried, roasted, in soups, etc. Used like leeks or scallions.
Fresh – the bulb flavor is quite strong, and not many eat the bulbs raw; you can eat Cheremsha on its own with coarse salt, but it’s also a great and healthy addition to any spring vegetable salad. Some other uses for fresh Cheremsha include soups, sandwiches, and pie fillings; it can also be pickled, but not dried.
General insect nectar plant
Aromatic pest confuser
Fair to decent groundcover in the Spring, but not after that as the plant dies back.
Yield: A few leaves one one bulb per plant.
Harvesting: Very late Winter through Spring.
Storage: Fresh is best. Can be refrigerated like leeks or scallions. Greens can be rinsed, air dried, and then frozen for a few months in an airtight container/bag.
Young ramps don’t have the time to develop a full bulb.
DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined.
Chill Requirement: As this is a bulbed plant, some chill is required, but nothing specific that I can find in my search.
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: Not cultivated commercially.
Flowering: June-August depending on the USDA Zone where it is planted.
Life Span: Spreads indefinitely from new bulbs.
The small flowers are nectar sources for beneficial insects.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
Size: 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) tall and continues to grow wide indefinitely as new bulbs form
Roots: Shallow bulbs
Growth Rate: Slow
Ramps will self-sow if given the chance.
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
Light: Prefers Partial to Full Shade
Shade: Tolerates Full Shade
Moisture: Medium to fairly wet soils
pH: Prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil (5.5 – 7.0)
Special Considerations for Growing:
Tolerates juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives). Consider using this plant under your walnuts. It will die back before the walnuts fall.
Should be planted under deciduous trees, not evergreens, as ramps need the light in Spring.
Propagation: Transplanted through division from new bulbs splitting off an older plant, ideally when dormant. Some people even have success transplanting plants in full leaf. Seeds need at least 15 weeks stratification for germination.
Concerns: Once abundant wild stands are at risk for overharvesting.