Ramps, these tasty spring ephemerals with the scientific name Allium tricoccum, are generally called ramps in the south and wild leeks in more northern areas. They are native to the hardwood forests of eastern North America.
In many areas, ramps are viewed as a sign of the coming of spring and people flock to the forests to “dig a mess of ramps.” Many communities hold ramp festivals. When in season, local restaurants, roadside vegetable stands, and other markets sell ramps to residents and tourists. In recent years, the interest in these spring delicacies has increased to the point that high-end restaurants in cities across the nation are now offering ramps on their menus.
Much of the demand for ramps is being met through wild harvesting. All of these activities have increased concern for the sustainability of these forest plants due to the potential for over-harvesting.
The increasing popularity of this woodland crop has created opportunities for landowners to also “farm” ramps in their woodlots. Forest farming ramps not only gives landowners an additional income source, but may also help alleviate pressure on wild populations.
A recent Agroforestry Note produced by the USDA National Agroforestry Center, in partnership with the Forest Service Southern Research Station, details the management and production of ramps in a forest farming setting. It describes site selection, site preparation and planting, maintenance and care, harvesting and processing, and marketing and economics.
Marilyn Wyman, the Issue Lead in Natural Resources and the Environment for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Columbia and Green Counties, New York and the Agroforestry Resource Center, said, “Connecting audiences with information in the Forest Farming Ramps publication provides them a crucial link to a culturally interesting, delicious and potentially lucrative plant. This information may be especially interesting to woodland owners who seek to cultivate food and farming enterprises on their properties.” With this publication, the USDA National Agroforestry Center helps to provide an additional resource for private forest owners who wish to diversify their income streams and cultivate a delicious plant.