Overharvesting endangers the beloved pungent cousin of the onion.
Ramps, also known as wild leeks, flourish across West Virginia. The ones growing on the grounds of national parks in the state have been fair game for personal harvesting—until this year.
Sadly, park biologists recently reported that ramp populations are on the decline. Some historical populations have even disappeared completely. In light of these findings, the National Park Service announced that, as of January 1, harvesting ramps within the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and Bluestone National Scenic River properties is prohibited until further notice.
Considering the population’s decline in the Mountain State, sustainable harvest is becoming increasingly important. Experienced harvester Deaonna Crowe offers a couple tips below.
➻ Use a knife to cut only the tops of the plants rather than fully removing them from the ground. “When you pull the whole plant,” Crowe says, “you’re really destroying the whole patch, because you’re taking the whole root system.”
➻ If you really want the bulb of the plant, Crowe recommends cutting the plant at its base so that the reproductive root system is left intact. “However, if you do pull the plant,” she says, “cut at least a quarter off the bottom of the plant where the roots are and replant.”
Follow this common wisdom to avoid over-harvesting: Leave the first plant for another species to use. Leave the second for another person coming behind you. Leave the third to propagate and grow. The fourth plant is yours.