Foraging for wild edibles is enjoying its day in the
sun, but there’s a caveat: Harvest responsibly.
By Clare Leschin-Hoar
EARLIER this spring, The New York
Times ran a story indicating that the
growing interest in wild and foraged plants
had been putting pressure on one of the
earliest harbingers of spring, ramps—a
tasty member of the wild onion family that
sets winter-weary chefs salivating at the
approaching change of seasons.
There’s little doubt that ramps and other
foraged edibles are the current menu
darlings of chefs from Los Angeles to
New York, but that uptick in popularity also
comes with an increase in responsibility,
both for the safety of your guests and for
the protection of habitat for tasty plants
that have remained wild for a reason.
In the case of ramps, wild-foods expert
Russ Cohen of Arlington, Mass., says he
encourages eaters to connect with local
landscapes through their taste buds, but
says foraging needs to be done in a more
sustainable way. Supple-leafed ramps, a
perennial, grow in patches ranging from
a few individual plants to thousands.
Foragers often harvest the entire plant,
including the tender bulb, leaving plenty of
plants to return the following season. But,
unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
These chanterelles, foraged by
Beau Vestal, will be part of a
dish on the menu at New Rivers.
“There are places where I’ll go walking in
the woods where there were ramps, but
they aren’t there anymore,” says Cohen.
“The problem is the digging up of them.
Each ramp has two or three leaves,
which are delicious. If you pick a leaf or