Spring season is among us and lots of people tend to be freaking out over the arrival of ramps.
Today, I received my first shipment of ramps of the year for a steep $20+ per pound. But, their price didn't damper my excitement at all—they're totally worth it.
In the coming weeks, if you're strolling through a local farmer’s market in the Northeast you won't miss ramps because of the garlicky scent in the air. The pungent aroma of ramps is a true sign that spring has arrived in the plant world. Ramps are a perennial wild onion that has to be foraged. Therefore, it's in high demand—grab them as long as supply lasts. They'll be gone before you know it, since the season lasts for only about four weeks.
Ramps have a pearly white tuber, burgundy stem, and wide floppy green leaves, which all resemble a picturesque lily. Ramps can be used in a number of ways, similar to onions. Ramps are great made into a pesto, grilled, blanched, pickled, sautéed, and combined with just about everything. They make a statement in spring soups even if you don't see them—though their flavor is very much noticeable.
Indeed, I prefer to prepare them cooked all the time, since when they're raw their pungent aroma almost certainly will overpower other subtler flavors in a dish. Further, reeking of raw spring garlic does not make a good conversation partner.
To start off, I suggest a simple sautéed ramp dish that lets the garlicky flavor shine.
(recipe yields 4 portions)
3 bunches ramps
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as grape seed or sunflower seed oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
5 black pepper grindings from the mill
1) Cut roots off the ramps. Fill a large bowl with cold water, then place ramps in the water. Swish them around to remove as much dirt as possible, then remove them from the bowl and continue repeating the same process a second time.
2) Place the ramps on kitchen paper towel to dry them. If you have a salad spinner, dry the ramps with it.
3) Heat a deep gallon-sized pot on high heat, then add the ramps. The heat will dry off most of the excess water, and takes about 2 minutes. Now add the vegetable oil. Cook ramps for 4-5 minutes, stirring 3-4 times so as not to torch the ramps.
4) Season ramps with salt and pepper. Ramps are done when the bulbous, white part of the plant is soft—if not, cook for another minute.
...now that you have the basic sautéing technique mastered, dive into the following preparation suggestions and enjoy them so long the ramp season lasts.
- Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the cooked ramps and sprinkle with 1 oz of shaved Parmesan cheese
- swap out ramps for garlic in recipes (e.g., asparagus soup, spring pea soup)—it will add an uplifting spring scent to your soup recipes
- work the sautéed ramps (above recipe) into your sandwich creations (e.g., grilled sourdough with goat cheese, tomatoes and ramps, toasted multigrain roll with avocado, grilled red peppers and ramps)
- serve along grilled, fattier cuts of steak (e.g. flank steak or rib eye)—you can't go wrong with the garlicky fragrance of the ramps here
- serve sautéed ramps along with char-flamed fish such as salmon or swordfish with grilled lemon
- sauté ramps with string beans, curly Savoy cabbage, or kale instead of garlic
If you're a person who enjoys pickling, it’s a great way to extend the ramp season for. I suggest going with a basic pickling recipe without fancy fanfare. The ramps will bring along all the flavor you need.