It’s ramp season, and whether you buy ramps at the farmer’s market or forage them yourself in the wild, this is the time to take advantage of this delicious (but short lived) delicacy.
What are ramps? The Huffington Post says:
Here’s the short answer: ramps are a wild onion that grow during the spring in Eastern Canada and the U.S. They’re sometimes referred to as wild leeks, and taste like a balanced mixture of garlic and onion. They’re pungent, to say the very least.
Some folks find ramps absolutely delicious — so delicious that civilized people have fought over the last few bunches at the farmers’ markets. So desired that they’ve monopolized the spring menus of top New York City chefs. So coveted that they’ve inspired people to tattoo them onto their bodies. In sum, people who like ramps don’t just like them, they’re obsessed with them.
If you’re not 100% sure of how to identify ramps (it’s quite easy once you know the telltale signs), check out How to tell the difference between ramps and lily-of-the-valley.
We harvested 4.2 pounds of them just today, and almost as many earlier this week. While they are over-harvested in some parts of the country (and especially in Canada, where there is a black market for ramps), they are very abundant in our neck of the woods. We are careful to harvest them responsibly, as well — taking less than 2% of what we find and leaving most of the bulbs in the ground to grow future crops.
Ramps have a subtle flavor of garlic and onion, but they are not as in-your-face as either of those veggies. Instead, ramps are delicate and full of subtle flavor. Once cooked, the leaves have the texture of spinach. They can enhance almost any savory dish you can think of.
If you’re lucky enough to get some ramps to experiment with this year, here are some wonderful ways to make use of them.
- Chopped and sauteed in any dish where you’d use onions, chives and/or garlic: The leaves of ramps can be chopped and chiffonaded (rolled and cut into thin strips). Then saute them in a bit of olive oil or butter with some salt and pepper, and use in any dish that pairs well with the flavors of onions and garlic. Stir fries are a wonderful example. Keep in mind that the greens will shrink down substantially and you’ll have far less cooked ramps than raw (much like spinach). A huge handful of fresh chopped ramps will be barely a quarter cup when cooked.
- With scrambled eggs: Our family loves to toss a huge handful of chopped ramp leaves in a pan with melted butter and then cook up a batch of scrambled eggs in the pan (I recommend eggs from back yard chickens for the most delicious, humane and nutritious eggs). All you need to add is salt and pepper. My three year-old generally hates scrambled eggs but she had three servings of ramps with scrambled eggs this weekend.
- In potato soup: Ramps are the perfect complement to creamy potato soup. Saute them and add them to the end of cooking so you don’t lose the flavor.
- Beer battered bulbs: We generally leave the bulbs to help grow new ramps, but if you are in an area with a wealth of extras, this is a fun treat. Just mix up your favorite beer batter, dip the bulbs in (leave the stem on for a “handle”) and fry in oil until crispy.
- Ramp salt: Ramp leaves don’t preserve well for later use, but you can dry them and make a lovely salt to use all year. Here are the easy instructions.
- Ramp Pesto: Make your favorite pesto recipe, but substitute ramps for the basil. Toss with pasta, use on sandwiches, and use any way you’d use pesto.
If you have a favorite way to enjoy ramps not listed here, please add it in the comments!