If you have ever tasted ramps?
They are for some THE culinary harbinger of spring, coming before asparagus or rhubarb and just in time to share with greenhouse produced greens.
In fact they are so to more and more people... They are becoming a victim of their own popularity.
When I have always thought of ramps I have thought of them as a quick growing plant, which regenerate quickly. However, this is not the case. They can take up to 7 years to develop a bulb, and typically when you pick you pick the whole plant bulb and all... Often, entire patches are dug, leaving few to replenish a patch. Over 2 million plants will be harvested this year, this is to many. In Quebec they became quite popular in farmers markets and quickly were so endangered harvesting them was prohibited. Ramps are an important part of early spring forest ecosystems. They are not, like Mushrooms, the fruiting body, they are the whole plant, and once harvested, likely gone from that place for years.
The solutions? Do not harvest or buy (or eat) ramp bulbs. The leaves are as tasty, and careful harvesting of these will not kill the plants. When harvested take only 20% of leaves from a patch, allowing a 5 year harvest cycle.
As much of the pressure is caused by commercial harvesting for the restaurant, talk to your chefs. Tell them you do not want dishes which include wild ramp bulbs. If you see them at farmers markets, talk to the producers and tell them the ramp story, they probably do not know. Tell them that you would LOVE to buy ramp leaves, but cannot buy whole plants.
Grist Action alert Ramps...
Slow Food USA blog Post...