As any veteran Greenmarket-goer can tell you, nothing says spring like ramps. But when will the celebrated stink bombs make their debut at Union Square this season? If anyone knows, it’s got to be farmer-forager Rick Bishop of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm in Roscoe, New York, the man who pretty much put ramps on the locavore map back in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
We checked in with Bishop the other day, and as it turns out, like Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog, he has a system. “I wait for the robins to show up,” he says. When the robins arrive, it means the worms are out, which means the ground is sufficiently unfrozen, which means the ramps are on their way — two weeks away to be exact.
At press time, Bishop had yet to witness anything that would constitute a quorum of ramp-alerting robins, but ever the optimist, he was willing to make a bold prediction: “April 18,” he said, as if gazing into a crystal ball. “It’s going to be April 18, I guarantee it.” But what about the robins? Not to worry. In case of emergencies, Bishop explained, he heads to a secret ramp-thriving sweet spot on a south-facing slope near the farm where mountain spring water runs swift and thaws the ground early — a ramp-lover’s Shangri-La, if ever there was one.