Ingredients

Ramp

Other Names: Wild leek.

General Description: Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are wild leeks that have small white bulbs, rose pink stalks, and broad green leaves. The odor of ramps is akin to that of garlic and onion, but is distinguished by its persistence and occasionally musty character. Native to eastern North America, its Appalachian name is derived from “ramson,” the name of a similar wild plant of the British Isles. English settlers of Appalachia called the plant by its English folk name, which was later shortened to ramp.

Though more delicate than other wild onions or garlic, ramps are bold and lingering in flavor. In late winter or very early spring, each bulb sends up two or three broad, smooth, oval leaves, similar to those of lily of the valley. Eventually growing 8 to 12 inches tall, these leaves show deep maroon streaking at the base and up along the parallel veins.

Season: Ramps may appear occasionally in the market anywhere from March through July.

Purchase: Choose ramps that are firm and springy with intact roots. The leaves should be bright green with rosy pink centers.

Avoid: Slimy, wilted, or overly dirty ramps are past their prime.

Storage: Store the ramps without washing. Wrap damp paper towels around the roots and place in a double layer of plastic bags to prevent the odor from permeating everything in the refrigerator. Store for up to 1 week.

Preparation:

  1. Trim off the roots.
  2. Rinse well.
  3. Peel off the first layer of skin from the bulbs.
  4. Remove any yellowed or wilted leaves.
  5. Rinse again in a bowl of cold water, swishing vigorously to dislodge any dirt.

Serving Suggestions: Fry ramps and potatoes in bacon fat and serve with bacon in traditional Appalachian ramps ‘n’ taters. Sauté chicken breasts and top with chopped ramps several minutes before serving. Dress blanched ramp greens (rinse in cold water to set color after blanching) with vinaigrette. Beat together blanched ramps with cream cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper, fold in some chopped raw ramps, and use as a spread on crackers.

Flavor Affinities: Asparagus, butter, cream, hollandaise sauce, new carrots, new potatoes, peas, salmon, vinaigrette.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com