Mother Nature gave us one last grumble on April 30 with temps dipping down to the mid-30s in some spots. Happily we woke to a stunning first day of May with clear blue skies and temps in the 70s. Finally, Spring is truly here. Of the four seasons Spring would have to be my favorite time of year. It’s the ultimate do-over: as the snow melts away gorgeous flowers and plants stretch and reach for the warmth of the sun. A few are only with us in the Spring and then gone literally until next year. One in particular, highly sought after by home cooks and chefs alike, is the ramp. What exactly are those delicate leafy plants?
Allium tricoccum, commonly known as ramp, ramson or wild leek is a perennial early spring vegetable. Ramps are found across much of the eastern United States and eastern Canada, from Alabama to Nova Scotia to Manitoba to Oklahoma. They grow wild and in close groups strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil.
The ramp has broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. Look for firm yet supple leaves and a bright white bulb. If the leaves are a little limp you can bring them back to life, but if they are crushed or have spots you might consider looking for fresher ramps.
Once you get them home give your ramps a gentle rinse under cool water. Remove any dirt or sand clinging to them. I like to place them in a plastic container with a little water on the bottom. (A tall quart size take-out container works perfectly.) Place a thin produce bag over them and into the fridge. They will keep about 4-5 days. The water will perk up the leaves a bit too. If you plan to use them right way simply roll in paper towels, after cleaning, and place in a produce bag. They will keep 2-3 days that way.
Both the white stalks and the broad green leaves are edible. Their flavor is a cross between onion and garlic. You can use ramps in a variety of ways: raw, grilled, pickled and pureed into a pesto. They sky is the limit.
If you’ve never tried a ramp now is the time. We have just about 2 more weeks left before they are gone until the next Spring. You can find them at many of our local Farmers Markets like Chappaqua and Gossett’s. I would encourage you to email or call ahead to make sure they have them. I’ve also spotted them at Tarry Market in Port Chester and Whole Foods.
Simply google “ramps” and you will find plenty of ideas on line. In the meantime check out these three recipes I have on the Small Bites blog:
Click this link to see: Pickled Ramps and Vegetables.
Click this link to see: Ramp Pesto Pasta with Charred Tomatoes.
Click this link to see: White Bean Veggie Burger with Ramps and Quinoa.