Published On: Fri, Jan 31st, 2014

Grow your own ramp patch

By SARAH MCCLELLAN-WELCH

EBCI AGRICULTURE AGENT

 

Packages of ramp bulbs for planting at home will be available to EBCI members at the EBCI Cooperative Extension Center (tentatively) on Feb. 26-27.  For the past eleven years, EBCI Cooperative Extension and volunteers have provided a small hand-full of ramp bulbs for Cherokee families to plant at home. The purpose of the project is to help increase the availability of this traditional, wild food by encouraging the planting of backyard ramp patches.

Kevin Welch, of the Center for Cherokee Plants, demonstrates sustainable ramp harvesting the traditional Cherokee way by cutting above roots, leaving roots and the base of the ramp bulb in the ground.   (Photo by Sarah McClellan-Welch/EBCI Cooperative Extension)

Kevin Welch, of the Center for Cherokee Plants, demonstrates sustainable ramp harvesting the traditional Cherokee way by cutting above roots, leaving roots and the base of the ramp bulb in the ground. (Photo by Sarah McClellan-Welch/EBCI Cooperative Extension)

Stop by the Extension office at 876 Acquoni Road during business hours from 7:45 am to 4:30pm to get your bulbs. Due to the high demand for these bulbs, only one package per EBCI household, please. Cherokee families are encouraged to participate in the project every year to increase the size of their patch.

Ramp bulbs should be planted in a forest environment. They will thrive on wooded north slopes in places that are cool and shady in summer. Ramps are very slow growing and may take as long as ten years to grow from seed to harvestable bulb. They also reproduce by small bulblets that emerge from the base of a mature bulb just at the roots.

The accepted, traditional, Cherokee harvesting method, respects the natural, self-propagation of the ramp. Cherokee harvesters have explained that the proper way of harvesting ramps is to gently scrape away the soil exposing a ramp bulb, then using a small pocketknife, cut the bulb in the ground above the roots leaving the entire root mass in place. This is a tedious, time consuming process but it is practiced by Cherokee harvesters of all ages: Elders, adults and youths.

The Back Yard Ramp Patch Project has reached the point in time when some patches may be ready for a light harvest. Descriptions from traditional Cherokee harvesters indicate that only about 1/10 of the patch should be harvested in a single year. This is to assure the sustainability of the patch as a future food source.

Info: Sarah McClellan-Welch 554-6935

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