Ramps are a wild onion species that have a pungent and garlicky flavor and are highly prized by chefs and food enthusiasts for their unique taste and limited availability.
Wild leeks (Ramps) Source: Jeff Heuer
IN THIS GUIDE
What are ramps
Ramps are wild onion that grows in the springtime in North America. They have a strong, pungent flavor similar to onions and garlic.
The bulbs and leaves of the plant are both edible and can be used in various dishes, such as soups, salads, and pesto.
Ramps are often considered a delicacy and are highly sought after by food enthusiasts. However, they have a short growing season and are only available fresh for a few weeks each year, making them a seasonal and regional specialties.
Ramps have a strong and pungent flavor similar to both onions and garlic, but with a unique taste that is hard to describe.
Some people find the taste of ramps to be quite intense, while others love the earthy and slightly sweet flavor.
Ramps are often used as a flavoring agent in recipes rather than being eaten independently due to their pungent taste. They pair well with various foods, including eggs, pasta, potatoes, and meats like chicken, pork, and beef.
Overall, the taste of ramps is complex and distinctive, making them a sought-after ingredient for many chefs and food enthusiasts.
Ramps are a seasonal food only available for a few weeks in the spring, typically from late March to early June, depending on the location and weather conditions.
They grow wild on the forest floor in North America, and their appearance is a sign of the start of the spring season. Due to their short growing season, food enthusiasts consider ramps a delicacy and are highly sought after.
Many restaurants feature ramp dishes during the spring, and farmers’ markets may also have ramps available for purchase.
However, it’s important to note that ramps are a wild food, and over-harvesting can negatively impact their population.
So, purchasing ramps from reputable sources and consuming them responsibly is essential.
How to cook
Ramps are versatile ingredients that can be cooked in various ways, depending on personal preference and the recipe you’re using. Here are a few standard methods for cooking ramps:
- Sautéed: One of the most common ways to cook ramps is to sauté them in a pan with oil or butter. Clean the ramps by removing dirt or debris and cutting off the root end. Then heat a pan over medium-high heat, add the ramps and some oil or butter, and sauté for a few minutes until they are tender and lightly browned—season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Grilled: Ramps can also be grilled for a smoky flavor. Clean the ramps and toss them with a bit of oil and salt. Then grill them over medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side until they are lightly charred and tender.
- Pickled: Ramps can be pickled for a tangy and flavorful addition to sandwiches, salads, and more. To make pickled ramps, clean and trim them, then pack them into a jar with vinegar, water, sugar, and spices allowing the ramps to marinate in the pickling liquid for a few days before use.
- Pesto: Ramps can be used to make a flavorful pesto that can be used as a sauce for pasta, a spread for sandwiches, or a dip for vegetables. Blend cleaned ramps with garlic, Parmesan cheese, nuts (such as pine nuts or walnuts), and olive oil until smooth.
These are just a few ways to cook ramps, but many other recipes and methods exist to explore. Enjoy!
Ramps are a delicate ingredient that can spoil quickly if not stored properly. Here are a few tips for keeping ramps:
- Refrigerate: Ramps should be stored in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for as long as possible. Please place them in a plastic bag or wrap them in a damp paper towel and store them in the fridge’s vegetable drawer.
- Use quickly: Ramps are best when used within a few days of purchase, as they can start to wilt and lose their flavor over time.
- Freeze: If you can’t use your ramps before they begin to spoil, you can freeze them for later use. Clean the ramps and chop them into small pieces, then spread them on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Once frozen, transfer the ramps to a plastic bag or container and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- Preserve: Ramps can be preserved by picking or making ramp butter. This can extend their shelf life and provide a way to enjoy their flavor even after the season has ended.
By following these tips, you can help ensure your ramps stay fresh and delicious for as long as possible.
Common questions about ramps
Where to ramps grow? Ramps are native to North America and are found in the eastern United States and Canada, growing in wooded areas with moist and shaded soils.
When are ramps in season? Ramps are typically in season from early spring to late May, depending on the region and weather conditions.
Are ramps difficult to find? Ramps can be difficult to find, as they are not widely cultivated and are only available in certain regions and at certain times of the year.
Can you grow ramps in your backyard? Yes, ramps can be grown in your backyard, but they require specific soil conditions and can take up to three years to mature.
Are ramps sustainable to harvest? Ramps are sustainable to harvest if done responsibly and with proper techniques, such as leaving some bulbs in the ground to regrow, avoiding over-harvesting, and not disturbing the surrounding ecosystem.