May is the month for delicious ramps. Their season is fleeting: late April to early June. They are worth seeking out.
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are wild leeks—also known as spring onion, ramson and wild garlic. In French, they are called ail sauvage, wild garlic, and ail des bois, garlic of the woods, because of their combined garlic-onion flavor. They look like a more exotic scallion.
Ramps don’t take to cultivation, so for a brief period each spring, they are picked in the wild. The entire plant is edible, from the broad, smooth, green leaves that look like daffodils to the scallion-like bulb.
Wild ramps can easily end up in one’s yard—where they are typically pulled out and thrown away (as our family did), not only because of their long leaves but for their strong garlic aroma. If you notice a plant by this description, take it to the kitchen instead of the trash can.
The name is of English origin, attributed to a folk name, “ramsen,” the plural form of hramsa, an Old English word for wild garlic. Early English settlers of Appalachia—a prime ramp region—saw the hramsa growing. The name later became shortened to ramp.
How To Enjoy Ramps
FOOD TRIVIA: The city of Chicago is named after ramps: The plant was called Chicagou in the language of local native American tribe. Seventeenth-century explorer Robert Cavelier came upon a thick growth of ramps near Lake Michigan. When he asked the locals what it was called, he was told: Chicagou.