Freshly washed ramps await further processing
Ramps are a seasonal wild delicacy found in forests from the Carolinas to Canada in early spring. Popping up in clumps in the cold damp of April, they thrive like any plant in the leek/onion family this time of year. Preceding the warm months but offering some fresh veggie relief after a long winter, ramps are a wonderful harvest and only take a little digging and washing to enjoy. Below I de-mystify these roots that even two months ago, I had never heard of! And we've got them, by the way, if you want to step outside the onion box!
Ramps can be used just like green onions. Simply peel the outer layer off and cut the bottom of the bulb off with the roots. You will be left with a 3 to 5 inch piece ready to use.
Ramps, because of their complex onion and garlic flavor are a great addition to almost any dish. Thin slice and use raw in salads or as a garnish. Slice "on the bias" (turn the ramp 45 degrees and cut thin, oblong slices) and add to dishes for an asian flair. The greens can be used fresh on sandwiches or in salads as well as being sautéed or added to egg dishes.
Here are some great ways to use ramps as a focal point in a meal.
"First of the Season" Soup, with Wild Ramps
This is a great soup that celebrates all of the early greens that are coming out at early markets or at the Co-ops. It also uses some leftovers from the root cellar.
4 large potatoes (peeled)
1 lb Wild Ramps (stem sliced into medallions, greens julienned cross the leaf in 1-2" strips)
1/2 lb Fresh Sorrel (julienned like ramp greens)
1/2 lb Swiss Chard (Julienned) or Spinach (left whole)
1 cup high quality chicken or vegetable stock (use veggie if doing optional "fish soup")
1 cup cheap white wine
1 cup whole milk
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh (if available) tarragon
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 lb of your favorite local fish (frozen is fine, but thaw it for the soup) (optional)
Cut the potatoes into chunks and boil until tender. Drain and coarsely mash. Add all ingredients but milk, cream, sorrel and spinach (if you're using it) and cook for about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook for 2 more minutes. Serve with hearty bread.
Rustic Ramp Pesto
Leaves from 1 lb Wild Ramps (for a bolder flavor, retain the stems)
2/3 cup roasted nut (pine nuts are traditional, but I like using walnuts or pecans)
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup (up to a full cup) shredded or sliced parmesan, coarsely chopped
Chop or crush nuts until finely coarse (does that make sense? You want them very small but uneven). Pulse ramps, olive oil, sugar and salt in a food processor until mostly smooth (you want a bit of texture, looking a bit like green stone-ground mustard). Pour into a mixing bowl and fold in nuts and 1/2 cup parmesan. Add more parmesan if you need it a bit thicker.
Some great uses for this tasty treat is on crackers or dry bread, mixed into pasta or even on pizza! You can also mix it into scrambled eggs for a unique and flavor dish.