Allium tricoccum – known as the ramp, spring onion, ramson, wild leek, wood leek, and wild garlic – is an early spring vegetable, a perennial wild onion with a strong garlic-like odor and a pronounced onion flavor.
|A Nice Little Wild Leek Patch|
Ramps are found across North America, from the U.S. state of South Carolina to Canada. They are popular in the cuisines of the rural upland South and in the Canadian province of Quebec. Ramps also have a growing popularity in upscale restaurants throughout North America. (from www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium_tricoccum)
The ramp has broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. Both the white lower leaf stalks and the broad green leaves are edible. The leaves (and bulbs) smell like onions when bruised or crushed. If they don't smell like onions they are not Wild Leeks.
The flavor, is a very pungent combination of onions and strong garlic. Ramps get made into dip, pickled, made into a relish (quite popular when I have it at the Farmer's Market!), made into pesto, and much, much more. Most commonly, I hear of them cooked with ham. Our American Legion traditionally has a Ham and Leek Dinner every year.
My wild leek story: One year I thought I would dehydrate some wild leeks and make wild leek powder. I chopped them up and put them into the running dehydrator then went out to work in the yard. When I came back in the whole house reeked of the dirty sock/garlic/onion smell! I quickly ran the dehydrator out to the garage and continued the drying out there (after I opened all the house windows)!
A woman from West Virginia told me how it used to be that kids who had wild leeks would get sent home from school if they had eaten them the day before (they make you stink!)
Note: Wild Leeks form patches in the forest. To keep them available for everyone and so that they don't become an endangered species as in Canada, if you collect them for eating, please only remove a few individuals from each patch.