North Georgia's Spring Tonic Harvested in Blue Ridge Mountains
I am a southern gal for sure and Georgia home grown but I admit, I do not recall ever hearing about “ramps” in reference to a vegetable. Ramps are spring onions, wild leeks, wood leeks and wild garlic. I do know about spring onions and leeks and even garlic (my personal favorite); just never heard them called ramps.
In case you are not familiar with “ramps” either, they are the first green vegetable to emerge in the spring in the North Georgia Mountains. Do not look for these along the Georgia coast, because you will only find them in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains or deep in the Cohutta forest.
"The old timers say they are a spring tonic. ... If you sit down to a big meal of ramps, don't be surprised if people continue to keep their distance after a few days"
Ramps only grow about a foot tall and have an underground bulb, a stalk and bright green leaves. These little plants have a short window of only a few weeks when they are prime for harvesting because of their size and flavor. Timing is everything, can’t harvest too early because they are too small or too late, because the leaves turn yellow and have a bitter taste. When harvested at the right time, ramps have a flavor that ranges from a taste like onions for some to a garlic taste for others. The unique appeal of ramps sets them apart from their cousins – leeks, scallions or chives.
These little mountain treasures mostly go unnoticed by the casual hiker, but chefs' from Atlanta and other parts of Georgia forage the North Georgia forests of the Blue Ridge Appalachian and Cohutta Mountains to find the mother lode. Some of Atlanta's top chefs serve the vegetable in a variety of delicious dishes in fine restaurants including the Governor's Mansion. Ramps can even be made into jelly and served with sheep or goat cheese.
Foraging is not only for chefs, even nature lovers might set out on a foraging expedition. Just be sure you have permission if you explore private land and dress appropriately in case it is hunting season. It is best to let friends and family know where you are going because unfortunately, accidents can happen.
Here are are a few basic “do’s and don’ts” from experienced foragers:
Know what is edible and what is not.
Learn what grows where.
Learn about the non-edible plants that grow with edible plants.
Learn about look-a-likes.
Learn how to differentiate similar plants by smell, feel, and texture.
Know your Latin. Allium tricoccum .
Consider growing wild edible plants at home.
Learn which parts of a wild edible plant are safe to use.
Don’t Take too much, respect the good earth and leave no footprint.
Don’t Harvest protected plants.
Don’t Collect the entire plant if you only need its leaves.
Don’t Harvest in toxic areas.
Don’t Forage plants that appear unhealthy.
North Georgia Real Estate