Seasonal Chef: Ramps, Truly the Harbinger of Spring


The time as come, they are here, but only for a brief moment … yes, I’m speaking of ramps, truly the harbinger of Spring. Well, at least for me it is. Last week, this week and perhaps maybe one more you will see them at the farmers markets and specialty stores. This is one ingredient you will need to seek out, but I promise you it will be worth it. Once the final snow melts they reveal themselves for all to forage, generally in the Eastern North America from South Carolina to Canada. They are delicate and must be hand picked, making them all the more special. Their flavor is a cross between an onion and garlic. Pungent raw, I like to cook them a little  to to take the edge off.


Ramps from Gaia's Breath Farm

Last year I wrote about them and created two recipes for that post. This week I updated the original pesto for a pasta dish and also tried my hand at pickling them.

Grilling RampsGrilling or sautéing them only takes about a minute or two, and the result is a smoky mellow flavor.

Ramp-Spinach PestoFor this richly colored pesto I also added spinach and hazelnuts. I used spinach specifically because it’s mild and doesn’t complete with the spicy ramp flavor. The nuts give it a little body. I also decided that the cheese would be added later, and not in the pesto, as you might typically find.

Charred tomatoesWhile I was at it I decided to add cherry tomatoes for color and acid. Charring them a bit also helps lend an additional smokiness .

Ramp Pesto Pasta with Charred Tomatoes, Maria ReinaThe pasta shape I used is called “Casarecce” and found in most supermarkets with a robust pasta section. You can use whatever shape you desire, just look for one that will hold on to the pasta and get caught up in it’s ridges, like rotini, campanelle or cellantini. Add the tomatoes last and fold them in carefully. It’s nice to have them whole so when you bite into them they burst in your mouth while you are eating!

Freezing Ramp Pesto, Maria ReinaHere is a little tip I can across many years ago on the Martha Stewart website. Take your remaining pesto and divide up into an ice cube tray. Freeze them and then pop into a heavy freezer bag. Each cube will account for one portion. What a great way to enjoy your ramps later in the season! Click here to see the recipe for my Ramp Pesto Pasta with Charred Tomatoes.

Vegetables to be pickledFeeling very creative with my ramps this week I also tried my hand at pickling them. Pouring over my cookbooks and online I finally came across a recipe from Saveur that looked interesting.

Pickled Ramps and Vegetables, Maria Reina


With just a few slight changes, it ended up being a real winner and great vehicle for my ramps and a few other vegetables I had on hand. Click here to see my recipe for Pickled Ramps and Vegetables.

This coming weekend I will be heading to the Chappaqua Farmers Market, as they move outdoors. Gaia’s Breath Farm will be sending down loads of ramps and spinach, plus many other goodies. I will be demoing my pesto recipe from 10:00 – 12:30, so please stop by to have a taste.

Yes, Spring is finally here!

Buon Appetito!




About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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