More Thoughts on Ramps

Posted on April 16, 2012. Filed under: foraging, hodgepodge, local, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , , |

My story about foraging for ramps aired Saturday on The Allegheny Front. They’re a marvelous little plant, and the experience of waking up (VERY) early to wander through the woods and harvest my own food was pretty incredible. I’d never foraged for anything before, and memories of that morning keep popping up. Now, when I pass a forested hillside, I wonder if ramps are growing on its slope. (I’ve cursed at several “No Trespassing” signs preventing me from scrambling up the hill and checking it out for myself!) I’ve considered foraging in my urban environment–but, I don’t know enough about urban foraging to decide what to harvest (though I did enjoy a nice snack of dandelion greens from my backyard the other day). This exercise was much easier to accomplish when I lived in Los Angeles; street-side rosemary grows everywhere and fruit trees overhang many sidewalks (protip: they are fair game if they are on the public side of a fence).

Back to the ramps. I touch on this in the story, but it’s worth repeating: if you forage for ramps, don’t over-harvest; experts say you should only take 5% to 10% of what you see (if you leave the bulbs in the ground you can harvest a bit more, however). If you see ramps at a restaurant, farmers’ market, or festival, don’t be afraid to ask about where they came from. This is especially pertinent if you see ramps on the West Coast–ramps don’t grow in California, so you might want to inquire about how they got there. I’m not discouraging the popularity of ramps (they truly are terrific), but we all need to be sure to consume them in a sustainable way, or we’ll be out of luck in a few years. Ramp population recuperation time is tremendously slow, and if they’re over-harvested the land where they grow can easily be overrun with invasive species.

If you do get your hands on ramps, what should you do with them? Here are a few ideas:

Quick and Easy Grilled Ramps:

Wash and dry ramps.
Rub with olive oil and salt.
Grill until ramps are just slightly charred.
Season with pinch of salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Pickled Ramps:

The basic ratio is 1-1-1 rice wine vinegar, water, and sugar–plus a pinch of salt.
Boil those ingredients and pour over (washed) ramp stems.
I also added a few black peppercorns, whole coriander seeds, and pinch of dried ginger.

You’ll just be using the stems for this one. Better make use of the greens, too, right? Render a few slices of bacon, and add chopped ramp greens to the bacon fat. Add three eggs (beaten), the cooked bacon, and handful of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

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6 Responses to “More Thoughts on Ramps”

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YUM! What a great post, Hal!

Thanks! Hooray for ramps!

great story. I have been foraging for ramps (leeks up here in the north) for 30 years. my ancestors gathered them as the first fresh veggie of the spring. I also gather morels. There is a butcher in Kane, Pa. Jack Bell of Bells meats and grocery that makes a KILLER leek sausage. Next time you are up there get some. Its worth serving at any resturaunt. I went into this new upscale local organic market in Erie to see if they would be interested in buying some – they didnt even know what they were.

That’s wonderful you’ve been foraging for so many years. I’m hooked now. Do you have any idea why they’re also called wild leeks? Ramps are as distinct from leeks as they are from onions or garlic.

Might have to take a road trip to Kane to check out that butch and try some of those sausages! Thanks for the tip!

Excellent! I went to West Virginia University and ramps are kind of huge down there, yet I’ve never tried them (heard of the NRA? The National Ramp Association?). They say ramps are good for the heart. Thought I, as an only child, would try to knock my chef of a dad’s socks off with a delicious ramp surprise for Father’s Day and came across your site. I’ve had some nasty leeks in my day so I was proceeding with caution. Sad to say, looks like I may be directly out of ramp season come mid-June, but I enjoyed your site nonetheless. Cheers to you and your kitchen – keep up the good work!

Hi Cori,

Ramps are reported to have a bunch of health benefits; I’m sure this was even more true when just about everybody ate a local diet–they are the first delicious vegetable of the new season!

Sadly, you’re too late to impress your dad with a tasty ramp surprise this year–looks like you’re going to have to wait a year and make him a spring surprise!

There is a bunch of local produce starting to come through the farmers’ markets now, so I’m sure you’ll be able to make him something wonderful.

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