Ramp Up Flavor with These Ramp Recipes
As one of the earliest plants to emerge in the new season, ramps are often considered to be the first spring greens. Botanically known as Allium trioccum, ramps are a member of the allium (onion) family that is native to North America, particularly in the Appalachian regions. Ramps live in rich, moist soil and forest environments, shooting up big, green leaves in spring that eventually give way to white blossoms. They’re really quite beautiful.
Ramps are high in vitamin A and C, plus they are naturally rich in selenium, a potent antioxidant that plays an essential role in immune functions. And like other vegetables in the allium family, ramps are a good source of chromium which aids in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
Ramps can be quite a divisive topic depending on who you’re talking to. Harvesting ramps sustainably has become a controversial subject among foragers and connoisseurs alike. This is because ramp seeds can take 6 to 18 months to germinate, and the plants themselves can take 5 – 7 years to produce seeds. The demand for ramps is exacting a heavy toll on wild plant populations according to one study that highlighted the vulnerability of the plant.
The trick is to avoid harvesting ramps from small, immature or flowering plants. Instead, take only half of each ramp clump and replant the rest, along with it’s rhizome (roots). Aim for 10 percent or less of the total plant. Foragers are also encouraged to scatter ramp seeds on their patches in the fall to replenish the ramps. Here’s a great article on how to properly harvest wild ramps. Or, avoid the problem completely by growing your own ramps at home.
Ramp Festivals & Celebrations
Are you a real ramp lover? You may want to attend one of the many springtime ramp festivals held every year in the U.S. There are more than 15 West Virginia Ramp Festivals alone to choose from. The community of Richwood, West Virginia, holds the annual “Feast of the Ramson” every April. It’s sponsored by the National Ramp Association and has been described as “the granddaddy of all Appalachian Ramp Feeds.” Legend has it that the first public ramp feed began from a private meal attended by thirteen ramp lovers. The Polk County Ramp Tramp Festival was founded in 1958 by 4-H club members who ”tramped” up Big Frog Mountain to enjoy a hike on a spring day as well as a ramp meal. The Annual Ramp Festival in Waynesville, North Carolina is now on its 85th year. One of the oldest ramp festivals in the United States is the “Cosby Ramp Festival” in Tennessee. This large festival has attracted as many as 30,000 visitors and has even been attended by former President Harry Truman!
These are just a few of the ramp festivals held annually. Check local listings for ramp events or festivals that may be in your area!
How to Buy, Store and Cook Ramps
Because ramps have a short growing season, you won’t find them in the market year-round. Ramps will appear first in their southern range in late March, with the season finally ending in the far north in early June. Look for ramps with bright green leaves and slender white stalks. Store ramps unwashed and wrapped tightly in a plastic bag in the fridge. Known for their bold, pungent smell, ramps have earned the nickname “King of Stink.” To prevent the strong garlic odor from affecting other foods, wrap the ramps in multiple bags. Ramps will stay fresh for up to a week in the fridge. Wash ramps thoroughly in water prior to use.
Because of their bold onion-garlic flavor, ramps can be used in a huge assortment of recipes. Try replacing onions, scallions or green onions with ramps, roasting or grilling them, pickling them, adding them to soups or stews, in pesto and on pasta, and they make an excellent pizza topping. You could even host a simple wild ramp tasting for friends, ramps are wonderfully versatile.
This Simple Asparagus + Ramp Soup with Rustic Spelt Bread recipe by Laura at The First Mess looks like rustic perfection.
I have big plans for ramp season this year that include making this Ramp Focaccia as well as this Ramp Greens Kimchi. In fact, researching ramp recipes for this article has led me to a lot of amazing and creative ways to use ramps. Here are a few that I think you’ll want to try for yourself.
Try these Ramp Recipes:
- Easy Pickled Ramps
- Wild Leek (Ramp) Pesto
- Simple Spaghetti with Ramps
- Ramp, White Bean & Shiitake Mushroom Gemelli Pasta
- Ramp Chimichurri
- Ramp & Sorrel Risotto with Red Quinoa
- Grilled Potato & Ramp Salad
- Ramp & Brazil Nut Pesto + Artichoke + Socca
Have you tried ramps? Have you ever foraged for them in a forest? I want to hear your story—tell me in the comments!