How To Find Wild Ramps?

What can be better than a walk in the glorious spring sunshine while looking for a tasty treat. Wild ramps are a member of the Allium family along with garlic, onions, and leeks, and you may be lucky enough to discover some out in the woods during April and early May.

These vivid green delights grow in deciduous forests before the leaves begin to appear on the trees. Both the leaves and the bulbs can be used to add a burst of flavor to your cooking, so let’s not waste any more time and find out how to find wild ramps.

Where do Wild Ramps Grow?

Where do Wild Ramps Grow

Ramps grow in wooded areas because they like soil with a heavy humus layer, and leaf litter is perfect for creating that. They grow in deciduous hardwood forests and prefer to be among trees such as basswood, beech, birch, buckeye, hickory, maple, oak, and tulip poplar.

Ideal locations are on slopes, especially north-facing ones, with partial shade and rich, moist, but well-drained soil. Plants that often grow alongside ramps are Trout Lilies as well as Anemone, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, False Solomon’s Seal, Foamflower, Hepatica, Solomon’s Seal, Spring Beauty, Squirrel Corn, Stinging nettle, Trillium, and Violet. 

Streambanks and areas where streams meet rivers or ravines are also good places to look for ramps as well as under Maple stands.

Ramps are native to eastern North America and the eastern side of the Cordilleras mountain range. They can be found from Georgia to southern Canada and as far west as Missouri and Minnesota or as far south as Tennessee and North Carolina.

In the UK, they are known as Wild Garlic and grow in many counties where conditions are favorable.

How do you Identify a Wild Ramp?

Ramps have bright green, broad leaves that come from a short stalk, with only 1, 2, or 3 leaves emerging from each individual plant. They measure 4 to 12 inches in length and 1 to 3 ½ inches wide.

When newly emerged, the leaves point upwards, but soon the tops begin to bend over, and this is a good sign, showing they are ready to harvest.

There are two varieties:

  • Allium Tricoccum var. Tricoccum – This type has red stems and broad leaves. 
  • Allium Tricoccum var. Burdickii – These have white stems and narrow leaves and are also called white ramps. 

Ramps grow in dense groups, and an old, well-established patch can cover an entire hillside, or if newly established or over-harvested, may be only a few plants.

You’ll know when you find a patch of ramps because the pungent garlicky smell is hard to miss.

Various other plants look very similar to ramps, and some are poisonous, such as Lily of the Valley, which is deadly, and False Hellebore. Ensure you know exactly what to look for and that the plant has a strong garlic-like aroma; if not, leave it alone.

In this video, you will see how to find and identify wild ramps:

How to Harvest Wild Ramps?

It can take as long as ten years for ramps to grow after seeding and many decades for them to form into a large colony. Unfortunately, they can be decimated in a single season by unthinking humans who greedily take too many.

If you look after a ramp patch and only take what you need by harvesting it carefully, the ramps will continue to grow and increase in numbers over the years, thus ensuring you always have plenty each spring. 

Once you dig a ramp up out of the ground, it will never grow back. Three methods will help to preserve the plant for the future.

  1. With a sharp, short-bladed knife, dig gently around the base of the ramp until you can see the top of the bulb. Cut the ramp off ¼ of an inch above the bulb and recover. 
  2. Simply cut the ramp off with a pair of sharp scissors or a knife at ground level, leaving the entire bulb completely undisturbed.
  3. Leave one leaf on the plant, only harvesting the other one or two by cutting with sharp scissors.

The first method is the most damaging, and there is still a chance the ramp won’t survive. The second method is less harmful, and the third is the least detrimental to the health of the plant and the entire colony. Avoid digging up the whole plant.

Don’t harvest just in one area. Spread it out evenly through the entire patch. Keep in mind that unless the ramps are growing on your own private land, others will likely be harvesting them too. 

If you have a suitable location, you could cultivate a ramp patch. The plants are easy to transfer and, if well-positioned, will spread over several years. 

The things to keep in mind if you do decide to grow some are that they must have the cover of deciduous trees, be on a slope that is preferably north-facing, and that there is a good layer of humus-rich soil that will both remain damp and drain quickly. 

Check the pH level of your soil too; they prefer it to be between 4.7 and 6.7, which is quite a large range.

Even if you only start with five or six plants, each year more should appear, and if you harvest them carefully, you will establish a dense patch over time.

Where Can I  Forage for Ramps?

Ramps grow in much of the eastern United States, but because ramps have become something of a culinary delicacy, they have been heavily over-harvested and all but disappeared in many areas. This means that unless you have your own woodland with suitable growing conditions, finding ramps can now be tricky.

Much in the same way that Ginseng grew abundantly in many ancient woodlands but has now all but disappeared in many areas, so too have ramps.

Laws regarding foraging on public and state-owned land vary across the United States, and it is necessary to check what the regulations are for a specific area before you go.

If you have friends with woodland, they may permit you to look for ramps to harvest ethically, and of course, you can always go foraging on your own land.

The digging up of wild plants is completely forbidden in Britain under the “Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981)” without express permission from the landowner.

How to Store Wild Ramps?

Freshly picked wild ramps will keep in the fridge for a few days. To keep them for longer, you can also freeze them, providing you blanch them first.


Simply give your ramps a thorough wash in cold water, then submerge them for just a few seconds in salted, boiling water. Remove them and place straight into water filled with ice to stop the cooking process immediately.

This method of blanching keeps the vibrant color of the ramps as well as preserving their delicious flavor. You can then divide them into small portions and put them into vacuum-sealed bags in your freezer. 


Alternatively, you may like to make some ramp vinegar. You’ll need a couple of quart jars filled with white apple cider vinegar, then just wash and chop your ramps, leaves, and stems and put them into the vinegar. 

Ramp vinegar is excellent for adding to salad dressings or making pickles using your favorite recipes.


A super hot and yummy sauce!


  • 2 and a 1/2 lbs of jalapeno peppers
  • ½ cup garlic bulbs chopped 
  • 1 and a ½ tablespoons of sea salt
  • 3/4 lb ramp leaves, washed clean and drained
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 extra tablespoon of sugar (maple sugar, turbinado, or ordinary white sugar)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil to help the blender achieve a smooth paste


  1. Coarsely chop the jalapeno peppers (it’s a good idea to wear gloves to do this), then, using your gloved hands, combine in a bowl with the wild ramp leaves salt and sugar.
  2. Place the combined mixture into wide-mouthed mason jars with air-tight lids, or a similar container. Press down firmly to remove as much excess air as possible. You can also vacuum seal the mixture if preferred. Leave the mixture on a shelf, somewhere cool and dark, for five days, then place in the refrigerator for a further ten days. 
  3. Once fermented, pour out the jalapeno/ramp mixture and all the juices it has made into a heavy-based pot, pop on a lid, and cook on a medium heat for around 30 minutes. During this time, give it an occasional stir to prevent sticking. 
  4. You’ll need to open all the windows while cooking the mixture, as the fumes this stuff gives off are completely eye-watering!  Take off the heat when the juices have almost completely evaporated, and it is very soft. This should take about 30 minutes.
  5. Once it’s cooled slightly, puree the mixture using a highspeed blender until it is completely smooth. To help achieve this, drizzle in a little of the oil at a time to reduce the friction on the blender blades.
  6. Use the back of a wooden spoon to press the blended mixture through a sieve to remove any remaining lumps.
  7. Put the finished sauce into sterilized glass bottles or jars with tight-fitting lids and keep refrigerated. 
  8. Enjoy with all your favorite dishes! The sauce will easily keep for several months and longer if unopened.

Powdered Ramps

If you have a dehydrator, making a powder out of your ramps to sprinkle as a taste enhancer to your meals is a great idea, and it’s easy to do.

  1. Give your ramps a good wash, drain and dry thoroughly.
  2. Chop off the top of the leaves, leaving about 2 to 3 inches of leaf and stalk. Don’t forget to use the leaf tops in your cooking to add extra flavor.
  3. Place the ramps into a dehydrator and dry for around 24 to 36 hours. 
  4. Once cool, you can blend them up in a high-powered blender such as a NutriBullet or a simple electric coffee grinder until they are reduced down to a fine powder.
  5. Store the powder in dry glass jars with tight-fitting lids somewhere cool, dry, and dark, a kitchen cupboard is usually perfect. 
  6. You can use the powder as a condiment or add it to soups, stocks, and sauces.


Wild ramps work as a delicious accompaniment to many meals and can be processed in a variety of ways to make them even more versatile.

Finding wild ramps can be tricky, but once you’ve located a good spot, be sure to keep it a secret so you can continue to take a sustainable harvest from it every spring.

Ensure you check the laws in your area before going foraging for ramps if you’re not doing it on your own land.

There are more articles about foraging to be found on our site. Why not have a look at this one about birds’ eggs, or this about wild parsnip?

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