Go on a Ramp-age
By Adam Calder
Wheatsfield Produce Manager
Eating a ramp is one of springtime’s simple, fleeting pleasures. Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are one of the first foods to emerge from the ground each spring. They can be found growing on bluffs alongside streams, in rich woodland soil or in colluvium (rain-washed sediments deposited at the bottom of hills.) In the United States they grow well in the Appalachia region, although they can be found growing in North America as far north as Quebec.
Ramp leaves and bulbs are edible, with a flavor often described as a combination of garlic and onions. They are commonly fried with potatoes and bacon, or in scrambled eggs. Many southern communities host annual ramp festivals to celebrate the brief appearance of this vegetable.
Ramps are nutritionally similar to onions. Ramps are rich in chromium, selenium and vitamins A and C. One half-cup serving of ramps has 16 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates and no appreciable amounts of fat or sugar.
The name “ramp” comes from an Old English word ramson which was a name commonly used to refer to the European bear leek. This Old English word likely derived from the Anglo-Saxon word hramsa.
The City of Chicago owes its name to ramps. The Chicago River used to be called the Shikaakwa River by the Miami people (Shikaakwa is the word for ramps in the Miami-Illinois language). This name was pronounced chicagou by Robert Cavelier, a French explorer of the Great Lakes region in the 17th century. Once Cavelier cataloged the word chicagou, the name caught on. There was a large thicket of ramps growing nearby around the time and place the city was founded, and settlers thought the word for ramps was chicagou, thus inspiring the name Chicago.
Ramps are only available for a couple of weeks during the early spring months, and they do not store for very long. Grab a bunch today and add them to your next meal, or next several! Each pungent, savory bite will bring a smile to your face and satisfaction to your palate.