This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Snow-weary eyes catch glimpses of bright green emerging from the brown carpet of leaves. Change. Like spring itself, the foliage of wild leeks, or ramps, seem to pop from the dirt, herds of rabbit-eared allium scattered about the deciduous hillsides of Vermont. Intrinsically beautiful and encouraging, the visual stimulation of green after so much monotone makes hunting allium tricoccum well worth the effort: but this early vegetation also yields a delicious wild edible.
Early season ramps are difficult to pick, the small and tender bulbs vigorously cling to the porous soil in which they grow. The flavor hovers between a gentle garlic, onion and shallot, they’re versatile and delicious. Suddenly, my omelets are memorable: small chopped and sautéed in butter, the bulbs quickly brown caramelized. Prior to flipping it, lay down the tender greens on the wet side, and let some cheddar melt into it.
After a month under the sun, yellowed limp foliage indicates the swollen onion-like bulbs now easy to pluck from the fragrant duff. Sugars turn to starch as they age, The older ones are perfectly primed for pickling. Sweet, salty, and fragrant, once chopped and incorporated into some aioli, ramps can turn a plain burger into a masterpiece. It’s the tops.
Walking past vernal pools on a warm early May evening, I hear the sonic lust of tiny frogs. Deeper into the woods sounds the silver voice of the hermit thrush. Her song evokes childhood strolls through fields of deer quietly munching on the first green stalks of grass. I recall my dad using his walking stick to silently communicate and explain.
Longer days allow me to pick as much as I can carry in my pack. Walking out of the dark woods, my eyes and ears adjust. The night creatures have heard and smelled me coming for miles. They acknowledge me with the indifference that can only come from living wild.