[UPDATE BELOW] Ramps are SO IMPORTANT, you guys. But springtime ramp-mania may have taken its toll, because according to a few botanists, the delicate Alliaceae (aka the "God of all vegetables") are being overharvested. James Chamberlain of the United States Forest Service told the Times, "I think we’re having an impact on ramp populations. I would say that we’re overharvesting the plants.” This could be as bad as the great Bitters shortage of 2010!
Given that ramps are often the first sign of edible green after a long winter of root vegetables, it's easy to see why locavores get excited. Chef Marco Canora said, “We’re so over winter, and we’re so ecstatic about ramps." But botanists say people are going deeper and deeper into forests to harvest them. In Quebec the sale of ramps has been banned since 1995 because they're considered "threatened," and harvesting was banned in 2004 from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
But of course, like everything concerning ramps, this story seems hyped. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, “As far as we know, wild leeks are not being overharvested in New York." And farmer Rick Bishop of Roscoe, NY says they pick almost 20,000 pounds of ramps a year for the city's Greenmarket and they're still thriving. We've contacted Jeanne Hodesh of the Union Square Greenmarket to see if there's anything to worry about, but for now, maybe we should go a little easy on the wall-to-wall ramps coverage? There are other vegetables out there, we swear.
[UPDATE] Looks like there's nothing to worry about...at least in this city. Union Square Greenmarket director Michael Hurwitz tells us, “Greenmarket farmers greatly contribute to the biodiversity of our region. This is one of the key benefits of shopping at farmers markets. And while we have some farmers in our program like Rick Bishop who sell thousands of pounds of ramps annually, and who is doing so responsibly in a way that will preserve that product for future years, we have others who have ramps growing on their property and don’t even know what they are. Furthermore, Greenmarket has a strict foraging rule—accordingly, the only way farmers can bring foraged products to market year after year is if they employ a sensible policy while harvesting." Let the mania continue.