What's in Season: Ramps
One of Our Most Delicious Signs of Spring
Ramps are wild spring onions. With a small, white bulb and hairy root, they resemble scallions but have a forward, garlic-onion flavor. Their season is short -- just a few weeks from late April to early June. Many restaurants command the limited supply which only puts more pressure on their availability to the home cook.
If winter kept you away from your Greenmarket, ramps are a reason to return. If you spot ramps -- which can also occasionally be found in better produce markets so keep an eye out -- pounce and buy a bunch. Look for ones that are firm and with bright green leaves. When you get them home, don't wash them until you use them, but wrap them in plastic and store in the refrigerator. Just before cooking, trim off the roots and any unappealing leaves and give them a quick rinse, drying them with a paper towel.
How to Cook and Eat Ramps
- Eat them raw as you would a scallion. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve with a slice of great bread and sweet butter.
- Give them a quick pan sauté with a bit of olive oil and toss with good egg fettuccine cooked al dente. If the ramps are large, you may want to first blanch them in boiling water for about 2 minutes to get them tender before then sautéing.
- If you're going to sauté the ramps, instead of olive oil you can first cook some pieces of bacon or pancetta until crisp, pour off most of the fat, and then add the blanched ramps to the hot pan and sauté until slightly brown.
- Make a pesto in the food processor or blender with ramps, olive oil, a little lemon zest, and salt. Toss with pasta (long strands like spaghetti so that the pesto can coat the pasta) or serve a spoonful with a piece of poached or pan seared fish.
- Add to a pan of potatoes that you are roasting; start roasting the potatoes first and when they've got about 10 more minutes left to cook, add the ramps to the roasting pan (the ramps don't need as much time to cook so this way you avoid burning or overcooking them plus you add the ramps' garlicky-onion flavor to the potatoes).
- Toss with spears of asparagus and olive oil, salt and pepper and oven roast them together until tender (about 15-20 minutes at 375F).
- Cut raw ramps into small, 1/2" or so, pieces and toss with halved good quality cherry tomatoes (not grape tomatoes -- those are too sweet and not juicy enough), some olive oil and sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Let this sit for a few minutes and use it as a fresh tomato salsa alongside any meat, poultry or fish. It adds color to the plate and an assertive, bright flavor.
- Sauté ramps in a little olive oil and serve alongside squares of sautéed polenta.
- Dice into 1/2" pieces and use as a starring garnish on dishes like guacamole, a tomato-based soup, an omelet, or anything that would be made better by the addition of ramps' distinctive, compelling flavor.
We've added a link to an article, with recipes, by Chef David Tanis, in The New York Times, with more ways to cook with this precious, wild ingredient..
Most of all, enjoy while you can -- they'll be gone before you know it.