Ramps in the city

It’s something of a contradiction to grow ramps in the city. They are delicate, wild forest plants, and I feel a little strange cultivating them in the shadowy part of a very small garden, surrounded by a sea of pavement.

Even out of place, they still hold magic—ramps are a precious chimerical treat! They appear for just a short while and offer a glimpse of their beautiful garlicky, shallot, and grassy flavor.

My ramps were a gift last spring. A friend intended for me to eat them and I planted them instead. Despite loving foraging, I’m not especially successful at finding some of the more elusive plants, and ramps seem to be over-harvested in the wild anyway. So, I planted them. I figured that if they died it would be a shame, but a worthwhile garden learning experience. But if they lived, propagated, and grew, I would have my very own ramps steps from my back door.

At first, completely unexpected, the newly planted ramps were decimated by slugs—and after the ramps had yellowed a bit and been chewed on a lot, I kind of gave them up for dead as a failed experiment. I almost forgot they had even been planted.

Then suddenly, just in time for this spring, they reappeared. And not just the small handful I’d planted, but easily four times as many plants poked up, healthier than ever! I often feel daunted by trying to grow things in such an unforgiving urban space and tired by sea of pavement, and these ramps reminded me that special plants are possible anywhere.

I only ate a couple of these welcome surprise guests—now that they’ve made it a year, I’ll let them grow for a while to have a nice bunch of ramp plants and greens to harvest and cultivate (hopefully) for years to come. But that small, delicious taste of Appalachian forest was an echo of another, wild spring, and I am grateful.

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