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Ramping Up Your Health! The Various Cherokee Uses for Ramps

Updated: Apr 12

Let's Talk RAMPS

Ramps? What in the world is a ramp? The locals affectionately call them mountain leeks, and it is one of the most indigenous food sources found in the Appalachian mountains. The Cherokee had several uses for this abundant food source. When visiting the reservation one summer, a full-blooded Cherokee elder told us how his family used ramps. Aside from being cooked and eaten as part of a meal, it had another great purpose. When it was a particularly nice set of days to go fishing, the boys would eat as many ramps as they could stomach the night before. The next morning, they would go to school, and within a short period of time, they would be asked to leave. Because the garlic smell coming through their pores was so obnoxious, it filled the little wooden classroom. The only relief was to kick the scheming Cherokee boys out.

  • The botanical name: Allium tricoccum 

  • Related to leeks, onions, and garlic

  • There are white ramps and red ramps.

  • They are in the lily family.

  • It blooms a pretty off-white snowflake-like blossom in early June.

Cherokee uses for ramps
Ramps aka Mountain Leeks

Location: They can be found throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, West Virginia (the ramp capital of the world), Pennsylvania, Ohio, and even Michigan. They like a lot of moisture and soil with good drainage. They are shade-loving and can be grown around your yard.

When? Depending on several factors (mildness/harshness of winter, elevation, etc.), start looking for them around mid-March, and by mid-April, they are ready to dig. You can gather ramp seeds in August and September.

Uses & benefits:

  • Ramps picked later, by the end of May, are good for pickling.

  • They freeze well in freezer bags, mason jars, or in water in a milk jug. Blanch them or sauté them before freezing.

  • They are delicious raw, added to a sandwich if you pick them early.

  • They can also be poached, fried, roasted, braised, or boiled.

  • They have twice the Vitamin C of an orange and contain high amounts of Vitamin K and Vitamin A.

  • They are full of antioxidants to decrease inflammation.

  • Helpful for weight loss.

  • Great for cardiac and digestive health.

  • Iroquois made a root decoction as a GI cleanse to rid oneself of parasites.

  • They lower blood sugar.

  • They contain the infection-fighting element sulfur, which makes them great cold remedies. A folk treatment for earache was to pour warm ramp juice into the affected ear.

  • It has also been used to treat croup.

  • They have been used as a spring tonic.

If you're making your own ramp hoe, the handle made of hickory or ash and then soaked to tighten the handle is ideal. Or you can buy one by clicking on the picture.

Breakfast Ramps Scramble

  1. Wash the leaves well.

  2. Put them in a large stock pot and cover them with water.

  3. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.

  4. While the ramps are cooking on medium-high, fry a few pieces of beef or turkey bacon.

  5. Drain the grease after the bacon is cooked.

  6. Drain the ramps of the water after they are cooked until tender.

  7. Add the ramps and a couple of eggs to the bacon.

  8. Scramble and cook until the eggs are to your preference.

You have a great Ramps Scramble!

Sites & Sources

Buy ramps to grow!

FDA disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Herbal remedies are no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you are serious about good health, you'll want to combine diet, exercise, herbs, a good relationship with your doctor, and a generally healthy lifestyle. No one of these will do it alone.

This website and the information contained therein is designed to provide users with both modern and historical herbal information and make no express or implied warranties or representations with regard to the accuracy, reliability, or standard of herbal information provided within, including but not limited to, the generality of the aforegoing, and implied warranties of fitness for any particular purpose or non-infringement. Your use of this website and any information contained herewith is entirely at your own risk.


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