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The Instacart guide to ramps

About ramps

Ramps, also called wild leeks or wild onions, are native to the forests of North America, spanning from Eastern Canada down to the Eastern part of the United States. They can be found in the Appalachian mountain region in mid-March and in the Great Lakes region in early April. Ramps are cousins of onions, leeks, scallions, and shallots. They taste like a combination of garlic and onions and are often referred to as "little stinkers" due to their pungent flavor. The green tops of this wild allium are mild in taste, whereas the bulbs are stronger.

Ramps look very similar to scallions, with broad leaves and purple stems. While they have just recently become popular since the 1990s, they have actually been around for centuries. The Cherokee Native American tribe foraged for them for hundreds of years. They have been a staple in Appalachian kitchens for several decades. In fact, there are many local festivals and events that celebrate this wild plant in West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina.

The popularity of ramps is due to their flavor and their scarcity. The plants can take up to four years to flower and reproduce. Plus, they are only available to harvest for a few weeks each spring. You will most likely find ramps at local farmers' markets, but they can be purchased at specialty grocery stores when in season. 

You can use ramps in any recipe that calls for scallions, leeks, or garlic. To prepare them before cooking, cut off the hairy roots and peel the outer layer of leaves. Next, wipe or rinse off the dirt that is left on the bulbs. Once the ramps are cleaned, you can use them in any recipe you'd like. For raw preparations, simply slice them thin and add them to salads or mix with sour cream or cream cheese and use as a dip with crackers or vegetables. You can also saute them with scrambled eggs or fried vegetables. Because the entire ramp plant is edible, it can be roasted or grilled and then eaten whole.

If you enjoy gardening, you can grow your own ramps right in your backyard. You can plant ramp seeds, or you can use any current ramp plants you have to start your own ramp garden. Begin by slicing off the top of each bulb and soak them in water overnight. Plant them the next day in moist soil that can also drain easily. Ramps grow best in a mostly shady location. If you do choose to plant your own ramps, you will need to wait quite a while, as these wild leeks can take about seven years to reach their maturity.

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