Ramps/Wild Leeks – Allium Tricoccum

Allium Tricoccum is a bulb-forming perennial with broad, smooth, light green leaves. It often has deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and forms a scallion-like stalk and bulb. Both the white lower leaf stalks and the broad green leaves are edible. The flower stalk appears after the leaves have died back. The flowers eventually dry to reveal small hard black seeds atop the flower stalk. Commonly referred to as ramps or wild leeks, these alliums grow in close groups strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil.

Freshly harvested wild ramps on a cutting board

Freshly harvested wild ramps.

Any introduction to ramps should begin with their odor. More easily located by smell than by sight, they produce a powerful and distinctive aroma reminiscent of an extraordinarily strong onion or a blend of just-chopped garlic and the earthy tinge of mushrooms. Found in the same areas as certain other spring ephemerals such as trillium and trout lily, Allium tricoccum is native to much of eastern North America.

Leek seedhead_Angie Lucas

A Leek seedhead – Angie Lucas Photo

Ramps are commonly found growing in “clumps” or “patches,” typically in rich, moist deciduous forests. They emerge in early spring as smooth, broad green leaves rising from an onion-like bulb. The leaves wither and disappear before the flowers appear in May, June, or July, depending on local climate and, in some areas, elevation. Atop a naked stem, these small creamy-white flowers form a small domed cluster, which becomes a crown of black pearls as seeds mature.