Ramps, also known as wild leeks and more properly known as allium tricoccum are a native plant found widely in wooded areas of Ohio and other states from South Carolina up into Canada. They are especially popular in West Virginia. I first tasted them at Details (RIP) last year, mixed into a spoon bread by the much-missed Chef Drew. Last week I spotted ramps at the Greener Grocer and started thinking about possible uses. Ramps can be substituted for leeks but they are much more garlicky, so if you are substituting them for leeks I would suggest omitting garlic if the recipe calls for it.
I highly recommend the book Abundantly Wild: Collecting and cooking wild edibles in the Upper Midwest by Teresa Marone. It has a whole chapter on ramps (which it lists as one of its top ten wild foods), as well as information about nuts,fruits, berries, flowers, greens, mushrooms, roots and starches. Many of the plants and trees mentioned are not isolated to the Midwest. It is a useful field guide for foragers including safety advice about ‘dangerous lookalikes’ and also has a wealth of recipes and practical information for preserving your haul.
I lucked out when my friend Josh brought me a grocery bag of ramps from the Hocking Hills area. When I opened the bag they seemed to double in size, filling the whole sink. Luckily, Teresa Marrone had lots of suggestions including candied ramps, ramp custards, ramp flatbread, pickled ramps and various salads. You can also add them to eggs, mashed potatoes, stir-fries, soups and stews. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to use 4lbs of ramps in a week, I blanched some and put them in the freezer. Ramps are generally eaten cooked so the blanching would not be a problem – I just hope no one mistakes them for spinach.
I also made a large batch of ramp pesto, using 1 cup of ramps per 1/4 cup of pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan and salt, which I will freeze too. Had I thought of it sooner, I might have tried making some with my remaining green almonds. The pesto is quite similar to garlic scape pesto but tastes like it has even more chlorophyll. You could mix ramps with basil when/if the seasons coincide.
We ate some of the pesto for supper last night with spaghetti. It is potent and has the burn of strong garlic, but made a fresh light supper and would be wonderful supplemented with spring greens or asparagus.
As for the pound and a half of ramps left in the fridge – I’m planning a vegan bean salad for a potluck dinner, possibly some ramp flatbread and I’m still looking for other ideas.
For those of you who want some ramp action of your own: If you want to pick your own – look for wooded areas and plants that smell of onions; if you want to buy your own – head to the Greener Grocer at the North Market or Hills Market in Worthington; and if you want someone else to do the work for you – head to Captain Cream Cheese on High Street in the Short North for some ramp cream cheese on a bagel and scrambled eggs with ramps and bacon! yum.
April 5, 2010
Thanks for the ramp education. I’ve never cooked with them or hunted them down.
April 5, 2010
Now I bet you will start noticing them all over the place. The smell is unmistakeable.
April 6, 2010
I just sampled the ramp cream cheese yesterday at BbCCC. And after brushing my teeth for the past 12 hours straight, my breath has now returned to some of its pre-ramp glory.
April 6, 2010
After reading a Bittman article last spring, I hunted down some ramps at the Greener Grocer and put them in biscuits. Delish! I’m hoping to find more and do more with them this time around, as I’ve been waiting for ramp season all year!
April 7, 2010
Thanks for this posting. I’ve always wondered what they look like and now I know. I will also check out that book.
On this subject I’m also interested in poke (as in poke “sallat” aka salad). I know from reading the Foxfire books that folks in the South would eat ramps and poke in the spring. Any thoughts on that subject would be appreciated.
April 8, 2010
Michelle, I read the wikipedia article on pokeweed last year when some appeared in our yard. It didn’t make me want to try it:
Young pokeweed leaves can be boiled three times to reduce the toxin, discarding the water after each boiling. The result is known as poke salit, or poke salad, and is occasionally available commercially. Many authorities advise against eating pokeweed even after thrice boiling, as traces of the toxin may still remain. It should never be eaten uncooked. For many decades, poke salad has been a staple of southern U.S. cuisine, despite campaigns by doctors who believed pokeweed remained toxic even after being boiled. The lingering cultural significance of Poke salad can be found in the 1969 hit song “Polk Salad Annie,” written and performed by Tony Joe White, and famously covered by Elvis Presley, as well as other bands including the El Orbits of Houston, Texas. Pokeberry juice is added to other juices for jelly by those who believe it can relieve the pain of arthritis. There are poke salad festivals held annually in Blanchard, Louisiana; Gainesboro, Tennessee; Harlan, Kentucky; and, Arab, Alabama.
April 23, 2010
Hungry Wolf, you may want to consider a road trip to the rampsom fest. next yr. in Richwood WV. We have been a few times. Your cooking techniques look pretty good. I have only had them cooked in bacon grease over potatoes.
http://www.richwooders.com/ramp/ramps.htm – 54k – Cached
PS Lovely seeing you at Earthday Fest.
April 24, 2010
Thanks for the idea – sounds like a fun trip!