Monthly Archives: May 2012

A prickly Lady Luck puts out

Ramps taste better than garlicky onions because they are wild. Other than that, they taste like garlicky onions.

I was getting nowhere in spreadsheet land, so I took off in the Subaru and headed for a ramps patch I know some 45 minutes away. I didn’t want this project to cause me to lose out on all my favorite foraging opportunities this year; I’ve already spent far too much time at work and far too little on morels. Sinatra was singing the Lady Luck song on the way.

Foraging becomes so much more efficient when you know where to go. Luck had nothing to do with this. I made a furtive beeline for the ramps from the parking lot — W. tells me that “beelining” is actually the word used for triangulating bees’ straight lines from flower to hive, when you want to catch a swarm.

I had last been here a year before. I crossed a stream into the lush never never land where the ramps had grown so thick. I’d been greedy but hardly made a dent that time. Here, I saw nothing. I squatted. That is my secret trick for finding things. Peeing forces you to stand in one spot for at least thirty seconds. Voila: a ramp right in front of me.

The ramps were hidden under much bigger growth than the year before. Clearly I was coming later in the season than last time. But they were also very sparse. And many of them had faded yellowing leaves. I don’t know if that’s just their life cycle, or if they had caught something nasty.

I took only the leaves this time, and only a handful. If the ramps were in trouble, I didn’t want to exacerbate the problem. Maybe this just wasn’t their year, in this particular spot.

But then came Lady Luck. Some wouldn’t call it that. As I reached for a ramp hidden under greenery, my hand felt an annoying prickle.

And that is how I finally learned to positively identify nettles. I was 90 percent sure about them, but you never want to screw up with plants. The other lucky bit is there’s a patch a block from my house.

Piling on tonight with a foragers’ quiche: morels, ramps, nettles and Comte cheese (which was on sale, another triumphant foraging discovery). I often hoard my finds, but sometimes it seems important to luxuriate in them.

I am 99 percent sure these are nettles. They stung me and they taste good.