I got pretty excited seeing rows of scrappy, green leaves emerging from the ground between a couple of my pawpaw trees. The leaves were those of ramps (Allium tricoccum, also commonly known as wild leeks) that I had first planted there two years ago, with an additional planting last year.
There’s no reason that ramps shouldn’t thrive here on the farmden; they’re native from Canada down to North Carolina and from the east coast as far west as Missouri. They’ve been best known in the southern Appalachian region, where festivals have long been held to celebrate the harvest.
Ramps became more widely known in the 1990s when, with the publication of a ramp recipe in Martha Stewart Living Magazine, the wilding became a foodie-food. Ramps are now threatened with being over harvested. Which, along with a desire to have this fresh-picked delicacy near the kitchen door, is the reason I …
“Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower . . . “ Whoa! Hold on there Lord Tennyson! Relax, little flower. I’m not doing any plucking. I had hardly a hand in some of my best plantings, and that little flower is one of them. There’s a small, moss-covered ledge at the base of the brick wall next to my front door, an east-facing spot that enjoys some morning sun in summer but shade from the nearby north wall the rest of the year. In short, it’s a perfect place for a summer vacation for my orchids, bonsai, and cyclamen.
Cyclamen flower in a crannied wall
The cyclamen is Cyclamen hederifolium, sometimes commonly called Persian violet (though a violet it is not; hence the need for botanical names). Although …
Spring is here, in my basement. Allow me to set the scene. My basement is barely heated and I replaced what once was a south-facing Bilco door with a wooden frame supporting two clear polycarbonate panels. Plants that need light and tolerate or need a winter cold period, down to near freezing, have their wishes fulfilled out there in that old Bilco entranceway.
Temperatures are more moderate there than outdoors, generally warmer except later in spring when the basement’s mass of concrete keeps things cooler than hot, sunny days outdoors. Through winter, though, the non-frigid temperatures kept pots of Welsh onions, pansies, oregano, kumquat seedlings, hellebore, olive, pineapple guavas, and bay laurel green and happy. It’s cool Mediterranean climate down there, in winter, at least.
A friend of a friend who was helping me turn compost stopped by the farmden and presented me with a fistful of greenery. Ramps. Although I’ve known of ramps and ramp festivals for years, the plant never appealed to me. I foolishly figured it was one of those edibles whose main appeal was their wildness rather than their flavor.
But ramps right in your face demand attention, so I cooked and ate them that evening. The flavor was delicious, yes, onion-y but not with an overpowering aroma that’s often advertised as oozing from the bodies of attendees at ramps festivals; and they were sweet. As I have done with many other wild edibles — blueberries, pawpaws, and persimmons, to name a few — I right away wanted to cultivate ramps, both for the challenge and to have them available close …