Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Rebekah Lund
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Finding hope in the woods


Rebekah Lund

Harvesting some ramps in the woods.

Dedicated to the memory of Bud and Bev Paulson.

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I decided to bring cookies to my brother-in-law for his birthday. When we dropped them off, we thought it would be fun to do a "socially-distanced", outdoor walk in the woods. So, we went to check out the trails in my sister and brother-in-law's new land in Moose Lake. Just seeing people was a reward in itself, as was the beauty of nature, but little did we know we had another reward waiting for us.

We walked down the property line, and then ventured into the woods on the cut trails. It was great. Crunching leaves, fresh spring smells. We were headed down toward a little creek area, when all of a sudden, I saw these bright green, flat-leaved, bunchy plants poking out from the leaf litter off the sides of the trail.

"Are those ramps?!" I exclaimed to my sister. She was unaware of ramps, so she was not as excited as I was, but she was definitely interested. We picked one up, tore a leaf, and sure enough, there was that signature oniony, spicy aroma. We had found ramps! As we looked around, we realized they were EVERYWHERE. It was like discovering treasure! My nephew was ecstatic. "Auntie, we can cook some on the fire. Auntie, we can bring a bowl and pick them. Auntie!"

After we surveyed the crop of ramps for a while, we made our way back to their building spot and sat around in lawn chairs(spread out 6 feet) and researched ramps on our smartphones. According to Wikipedia, "Allium tricoccum is a North American species of wild onion widespread across eastern Canada and the eastern United States." We quickly learned that they have a look-alike plant, lily of the valley, which is poisonous. Well, none of us were passed out yet, so we seemed to be good there. We watched a youtube video about a guy who had a secret stash of ramps on his property, who advised to not harvest more than 10% of the ramps in any one area or they may be too far depleted.

My sister and I were so excited about this new discovery, so, armed with our new knowledge, and with our husbands, we left our kids alone and hopped on the "hauler", her vintage, army-like ATV and returned to our ramp site in the woods at dusk to harvest some more and examine them more closely. We shoveled some out, verified that the roots looked like bulbs, and not like roots (which would signify they were possibly lily of the valley), and happily drove back.

Just like that, our hope about things was instantly restored through an experience in nature. It was just lovely. We returned and picked more the next weekend, and so far, I have used some ramps in hotdish and homemade pizza, and I plan to cook some in eggs this weekend. But it wasn't the cooking part that was rewarding, it was finding that secret in the woods, something that oftentimes we are too busy to discover, but not this year.


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