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Ramps (wild leeks) are edible and delicious, while lilies-of-the-valley are not — in fact, they’re poisonous. Don’t let that scare you away from harvesting ramps, though. There are several ways to easily spot the differences.
Ramps (ramsons in the UK) are alliums, members of the onion family. Lily-of-the-valley is an imported flower that has invasive habits and contains cardiac glycosides, which affects the body in a similar manner to foxglove (digitalis). Symptoms of ingesting it include flushed skin, nausea, dizziness, headache, weakness, hallucinations and changes in heart rate. In extreme cases, it can lead to death.
The two plants look similar, but there are good ways to tell them apart. In the picture, a wild ramp is on the left, while a lily-of-the-valley is on the right. You can see some differences right away, and there are even more ways to be sure you’re picking ramps and not lily-of-the-valley.
Location and emergence:
I recommend locating and digging up a lily-of-the-valley so you can see the differences for yourself. The best way is to forage with someone who has experience with ramps your first time out. That said, we were able to easily identify ramps our first time out. And remember, if you’re not positive, don’t eat it.
This article originally appeared at Examiner.com