Ramps, a spring delicacy, and a forager’s delight have been slowly increasing in popularity in the last two decades. These garlicky, pungent plants used to be available on local roadside stands during the first few weeks of spring. But now, they are available in supermarkets as well as online, and have found their way into fancy dishes in upscale restaurants.
What Are Ramps?
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are wild plants native to North America that appear during the first week of spring. Also known as wild leeks, they are available in farmers’ markets from late March to the end of April and are usually snapped up like hotcakes due to their limited availability. They have a unique flavor that is a blend of the pungency of garlic and the sweetness of scallions or leeks, which make them a culinary favorite.
In Canada, ramps are considered a rare delicacy and there are harvest and growth restrictions. This is because these wild plants grow at a slow rate and also, take years to recover from any degree of harvesting. Ramps used to only grow in the wild but as their popularity increased, many people started growing them in their vegetable garden. If you are interested in growing ramps, you can visit the USDA Forest Service website here.
How To Eat Ramps?
Ramps look like scallions, with small white bulbs, stalks with a purple or burgundy tint, and wide dark green leaves at the top. Each part of the ramp is edible. The leaves have a mild leek-like flavor, the stems have a slightly more pungent taste, but the bulb is the most flavorful of all. They can be used just like garlic, scallions, or leeks and pair best with potatoes, eggs, mushrooms, pork, and pasta. While you can eat them raw and add them to salads, they taste best when cooked because it tones down their pungency. Let’s look at a simple dish that celebrates spring!
Fried Potatoes & Ramps Recipe
- 4 medium potatoes
- 1 pound ramps
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse the ramps thoroughly under running water. Remove the hairy part on top of the bulbs and the translucent skin, which is the outer layer of the stalk. Slice the ramps thinly, keeping the green leaves and the white portion separate.
- Cut the potatoes thin into round slices. In a frying pan, warm olive oil and put the potatoes in. Stir-fry for ten minutes on medium heat and cook till fork tender.
- Add the ramps and stir-fry for two minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy this simple and flavorful dish!
How To Buy & Store Ramps?
It is best to buy ramps in the first two weeks of spring because they can be overpriced in the later weeks. Look for the ones that have delicate, green leaves that are not wilted and stalks that are of medium size. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, after which the greens start wilting.
If you get lucky with bundles of ramps, you can preserve some for later use. The bulbs freeze well; you can clean them and freeze them in jars or plastic bags. The greens don’t freeze well – you can use them to make a pesto or compound butter. You can also pickle them and enjoy the pungent flavors with mashed potatoes or burgers.
If you do get your hands on ramps, do enjoy this lovely spring vegetable. Slather your toast with spicy ramps pesto, bite into it, and savor the delicious goodbye to winter!