The core mission of Dr. Cowan's Garden is to help people increase vegetable diversity in their diets. One of the best ways to do this is to add wild and perennial vegetables. The problem, as many have experienced, is that most of us don’t have time to forage for the day’s meal, or we live in a place that makes growing perennial vegetables impossible.
The importance of including perennial and wild vegetables in your diet is that they have more nutrients and minerals and less sugar than typical annual vegetables. As I have said, the history of agriculture can be seen as a switch from nutrient-dense, mineral-rich, strong-tasting perennial and wild foods to sweeter, less nutrient-dense annuals. This, in my view, is not a good trade. I have no problem with including annual garden vegetables in my daily diet — I eat 5 to 10 of them almost every day — but the true powerhouses of the vegetable world are wild and perennial vegetables.
Consequently, we are thrilled to offer an extremely limited supply of Wild Ramp Powder, made from ramps foraged in May in the Great Lakes region of Michigan. The reason our supply is extremely limited is that ramps are scarce -- their season is only a few weeks long in early spring, and they grow only on the forest floors of the eastern United States and Canada. Plus, they grow slowly and take up to four years to flower and reproduce, so sustainable harvesting is a must.
Few grocery stores sell them, and you're lucky to find them even at most farmers markets. If you're really eager to try them, you could have a five-pound box overnighted to you for more than $160! Or, you could try our new Wild Ramp Powder, which, because it's stored in a Miron jar, will stay fresh for several years. As far as we know, no one else but us is turning these rare, tender and uniquely flavorful plants into a delicious powder to be used year-round in cooking.
Wild ramps are in the allium family and are often referred to as wild leeks. Almost crazily prized by chefs (their featured on the menus of top restaurants in the U.S.), they have a distinct onion-garlic flavor. The entire ramp is generally used in cooking, and we include the whole plant in our powder.
Wild ramps are a rich source of such valuable minerals as selenium (which supports immune function), chromium (needed for blood-sugar regulation), and iron (for production of healthy red blood cells). No doubt, their nutritional richness derives from their mining the humus from the cool forest floor.
In addition to being a rich source of minerals, wild ramps are also a good source of choline, which is needed for brain development, and of the sulfur-containing compound kaempferol, which protects the lining of the blood vessels in our bodies.
I have often placed our powders in two categories: those that are nutritious and particularly strong in disease prevention (like Cholla Buds and Chaga Nuggets) and those that taste so good I might eat them even if they had no nutritional value at all (which, of course, is never actually the case). Luckily, with Wild Ramp Powder, it tastes so good I sprinkle it on just about every savory dish I eat, and I know it’s giving me a powerful complement of nutrients. See below for a couple of simple recipe ideas.
Although we would like to be able to offer a large supply of Wild Ramp Powder, at this point, and with our emphasis on sustainable harvesting, it’s just not possible. Perhaps we just need more untouched, unlogged forests in this country, a conclusion that I, for one, am all for.
Tom Cowan, M.D.
Happy Spring, everyone! As I type this on an early Sunday morning, we are having a beautiful early spring here in the Northeast. Our new garden fence is up, the garden beds are slowly being made, the greenhouse is nearly finished, and seedlings are in the greenhouse planter boxes. For me, spring represents many things, but on a completely practical level it means the transition from “exercise” to doing actual work with my body. Shoveling, pushing a wheel barrow through mud, pitch forking hay — these are my favorite ways to work up a sweat and start the day.