I'm in SoCal also, and I feel your pain. I don't believe they're available out here. They need (like the best lilacs and peonies) a colder fall/winter than we're able to give them. And I think they're very, very fragile and perishable, so they don't ship.
Every year, I read with great envy, the recipes and the sagas of the Northeastern-ers raving about their ramp dishes. But sadly, I don't think we'll ever enjoy them, unless we plan a trip to the East Coast in the Spring.
But that's OK. WE have Dungeness crab !
The ramp season is over for the year I think...Can't seem to find them any more here in the North east as well!
I've lived on the East Coast all my life, now New Hampshire, and I had never heard of ramps as something local to eat until last year (on food52, of course). However, I believe that Rapunzel's father got himself and her in a lot of trouble -- R's pregnant mother craved them, so went to the witch's place to pick some, and you know the rest of the story.
At our farmer's market, our farmers tell us they're working on cultivating them. My sense is that they are native to the mountains -- Appalachians, Berkshires, etc, and I've heard about ramp festivals in West Virginia.
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
One of the things that drives me crazy about the Food52 contests is the call for ingredients that are so local centric---as in a small portion of the North East. I personally love ramps but the only times I've been able to taste them have been when I've been dining in New York.
Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking
I first had ramps 20 or 30 years ago, when I young man who was working for my husband brought them to work, a gift from his mother. She turned out to be Eva Sommaripa, potter, farmer, forager, and now the subject of Wild Flavors: One Chef's Transformative Year Cooking from Eva's Farm. Even when we left New England about 10 years ago, it was pretty rare to find ramps from anyone less of a personage than Eva.
So, it's been interesting to read about the ramps rage that seems to have swallowed up the East, with bans on harvesting them in some public parks and so many, many entries to the recent spring onion contest. Interesting, yes. But like pierino, I was kind of surprised and disappointed that both finalists were recipes that lot of us couldn't make, even those of us who think we live in the Garden of Eden, just not the garden of Eva.
Yes, while the contest theme was allium (okay, this is fun) I too was vexed that the finalists were both recipes for ramps. Both absolutely delicious no doubt, but there are a gazillion alliums out there. We have to get the editors to come visit us out west. I'll be looking forward to "your best nopales." They have cactus in New York right?
Ramps have a wide range in the US and grow in most of the East Coast and Midwest states, although not in the extreme south. You can see their range at http://plants.usda.gov...
There is also a European version, called Baerlauch in Germany--which means the bear's leek. According to folk tradition, it was the first food that bears looked for when they emerged from hibernation. The season is past, both in Europe and the US. I had my last ramp of the season in Washington, DC, about two weeks ago. And I am in Germany now and distraught to find the Baerlauch is also past tense. But I am consoling myself with white asparagus.
I'm wondering if you can't find ramps if you might be able to find green garlic; it's definitely not the same thing, but you might be able to sub it in a recipe with perfectly delicious results. I just moved from SoCal to UT, and I can't recall seeing them in SoCal either while I was there (but have enjoyed them a few times in UT, go figure). But green garlic is more widely cultivated, cheaper, and probably your best alternative to ramps. Anyone else subbed other things with good results?
We have ramps growing practically in our backyard here in east TN, and we're very fortunate to have them. However, I fear that the recent popularity of ramps is decimating the wild populations. For the most part, ramps are still very much a wild food. There have been efforts made at propagating them, but there are several complications:
1.) From seed, ramps take a whopping 6 to 18 month germination window, and they require specific weather patterns to germinate.
2.) They are best grown in high altitudes where winters are very cold and longer than lower down the mountain.
3.) They prefer dark, heavily wooded deciduous forests, making propagation difficult as you can't use any machinery (or could only do so with great difficulty).
4.) Ramps can be grown from starts, but so far the only way to do this is to harvest wild populations and transplant them.
If you find ramps growing wild, you should only pick 10 percent of the stand in order to ensure their survival in that area.
Ramp festivals are commonplace in this area, but these festivals often decimate the local ramp populations as people pick them all at once. People here also pick them to sell to local chefs who don't seem to care all that much where they came from or that you should only pick 10 percent....
Sorry. Rant. It's just sad to see ramps being overused in this way. They're such wonderful little alliums.
Wow, this is really informative, thanks so much petitbleu! (oh well there goes my pipe dream of sneaking ramp seeds to India & letting them run riot there, cold winters there are about as chilly as March/april weather here in the northeast)
Rant? Good , informative, and interesting rant. Thanks.
And Maedl, yes! green garlic is also special and wonderful. Just a different special and wonderful. And on the good side, more sustainable, I think, as it's not dependent on wild populations.
@ Michee - I saw on FAB.COM , they have ramps available online. I do not know whether they will be able to ship it to west coast or not? But, you can check them out. The company is Mikuni Wild Harvest , so check them out. Hope you get them. They also have some lovely things.
Thank you soo much! I will check it out.
Certainly not the interstate system. (g).
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