Abundant Garlicky, Green Ramps: Another Sign of Impatient Spring

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Learn

The signs of a warm and early spring have abounded in 2012, from early peak of cherry blossoms in the nation’s Capitol to the hasty return of some feathered friends from their winter migrations.

March is traditionally known for windy, cold weather in much of the U.S., but with more than 15,000 warm temperature records set in March 2012, it’s no wonder signs of spring were popping up early all over.

Climate Central features a slide show of other signs of a warmer than usual spring, including early blooming flowers and hatching of insects. The Northeast, for example, was experiencing drought and risk of wildfires instead of April showers – including a hot Boston Marathon – until a welcome rainstorm finally arrived on Earth Day.

But for the foodies among us, who enjoy foraging for novel ingredients, there has been a bright spot from all the warmth: a bumper crop of ramps – garlicky greens from the leek family that are appearing on the forest floor, and on chic restaurant menus, 2-3 weeks early this year.    

In an interview with The Atlantic Wire, Frank Lowenstein, The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader, said changing weather patterns could spell trouble for ramps in the future.  

“The temperatures are warming more at night and more in the winter than they are in the summer and the daytime. So will that mean that more insects survive and you’ll see more insect damage?” he asked. “Will trees move their phenology up so they open up their leaves sooner and shade the ramps too much? The forest right now is a very intricate web of interactions and competition that’s pretty well balanced. I think the shifts we’re seeing are going to change those balances, and the effects will be difficult to predict ahead of time.”

These trendy greens spend most of the year in the ground, making ramps drought- and cold-resistant, but over-harvesting by hungry diners may be a threat. Lowenstein, who enjoys harvesting wild ramps, says it’s best to pick just one or two leaves from each plant, and not disturb the roots, especially if the ramps look stressed.

Lisa Hayden is a blogger and writer for The Nature Conservancy.

Thumbnail Photo by: Flickr user cuttlefish (Ramps, or fresh greens from the leek family, are plentiful earlier than usual during this warm spring.) Used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo 2 by: Flickr user BevKnits (Wild leeks, or ramps, are among the first green things to sprout from the forest in spring.) Used under a Creative Commons license.

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