I’ve lived in the city my whole life and hunting for food has been as complicated as waiting in line: something hunter’s usually have to do long before they can even go hunting. Samesies for fishing. I have been so far removed from having to claim my food that if a chef went hunting my whole existence would be preparation.
I really want to tell you that whenever ramp season starts, I go out hunting for ramps. But I’ve already confessed that I don’t hunt. And really, with ramps it’s about gathering.
My wife Rachel is radiant like the sun and swinging like a pendulum, pregnant with our first child. Last week, we went to the woods outside my parents farm in Meaford. Each year I return to this large acreage and harvest ramps for my family and friends, but mostly for my restaurant. Helpers abound: my nephew Aidan comes along with us. My sister Kathy was there with her husband Kevin. My brother Dave was there as well. Six of us in total: two to pick ramps, a child and three babysitters.
Its this, the structure of our entourage, that betrays the difference between hunting and gathering. When you hunt, extra people are a liability: they create noise and confusion. You can’t hunt with children. You can’t hunt with family; at least, not all of them. But you can gather with family. You can gather with friends.
And really this is how it ought to be. The way I was taught, you shouldn’t pick more than ten percent of any patch of ramps that you find. The reason is simple: when you pick a ramp you take the whole plant. Garlic and onions are the same way. When you pick the whole plant, there is never a flower and therefore no pollen.
Scarcity is a virtue and a curse when you hunt. But when you gather, as you do with ramps, you are better having a good long walk with more people than can possibly pick because you shouldn’t pick most of what you see. If you’re just out for a walk, you’re unlikely to dangerously over forage. By leaving far more than you take and please, you have to leave far more than you take.
My wife has always been a beautiful woman, and pregnant, she carries with her a fulfillment that is so everlasting. It’s important to think of food and family in the same breath: celebrate them when they are around, but love that they will always be there for you. Food is for hunters: perpetuity is for the gatherer.