Land Connecting

Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection to save Illinois farmland, sends out one of the first signs of spring around here: an invitation to RampFest.

Ramps are the first edible greens to appear in our Midwestern forests each spring. They are in the allium family (along with onions, garlic, and leeks), and were called chicagoua by the native Miami and Illinois peoples. This was also the Indian name for the Chicago River, along which ramps grew abundantly. In the late 17th Century, French explorers began referring to the area at the mouth of the Chicago River as “Chicago.”

The foliage, stems, and bulbs can be used raw or cooked — in salads, soups, on pizza, or in sandwiches. They are especially good in omelets and quiches. Many chefs say that ramps are the best-tasting member of the entire onion family.

We live six houses from the River, on land once held by the Miami people. My guess is that it’s probably not a great idea to go foraging for this sort of food along the cleaner-than-it-used-to-be, but not as clean as it should be, Chicago River.

Even so, it’s good to be thinking about fresh food, garden and growing. We’ve got several inches of snow that might just disappear this weekend and a bungalow landscaping workshop tonight.