Seasonal Chef: Ramps, Spring’s First Local Gem

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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?

Ramps

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.

Grilled Ramps

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:

Pickled Ramps and Vegetables by Maria Reina

Click this link to see: Pickled Ramps and Vegetables.

Ramp Pesto Pasta with Charred Tomato, by Maria Reina

Click this link to see: Ramp Pesto Pasta with Charred Tomatoes.

White Bean and Ramp Veggie Burger

Click this link to see: White Bean Veggie Burger with Ramps and Quinoa.

Buon Appetito!

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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 farmers, 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) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

2 Comments

  1. The most important question to ask your farmer is “Where do these ramps come from?” If his answer is that they are “Wild Ramps” “foraged” then pass on them.

    The delicate ecosystem of the Catskill Mountains is being compromised by poachers who rip through ramp patches in state parks and preserves creating big open dirt patches. These open patches then grow invasive plants. Recent popularity is making ramp patches disappear.

    We in the Catskills welcome you to come see the wonder of spring ephemerals and enjoy the beauty of rare flowers. By being a thoughtful foodie you can insure that these beautiful places will remain.

    If your farmer is growing ramps on their property and sustainably harvesting them it’s OK to buy.

  2. Thank you for you thoughts Lea. I can tell you that the ramps I used for this recipe, and my other ramp recipes for Seasonal Chef came from Gaia’s Breath Farm. He grows them on his land and brings them down to the Chappaqua, Gossets and Irvington Farmers Markets, in Westchester.

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