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Forest Farming Ramps

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.

The Slippery Slope of Ramps

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

To many of locals in western North Carolina, they’re called wild leeks.  Some call them ransoms and still others call them wood garlic because of their pungent smell. Nevertheless, ecologists simply call them ramps. This native plant has been useful to humans since inhabiting the eastern regions of the U.S. and Canada.  Still today, locals harvest ramps for food, medicinal preparations, and to sell at markets and spring festivals.