Here's a quick and easy spring side dish that will go well with a perfectly grilled steak or fillet of fish. I start with a quick roux to make the thickening agent for the cream sauce, and preserve the fresh and spicy flavor of ramps by cooking them only briefly.
- 1/4 Cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup milk
- 1/2 Cup heavy cream
- 1/4 Pound ramps
- 1/4 Pound baby spinach, chopped
- 1/2 Cup grated Parmesan
Calories Per Serving645
Folate equivalent (total)200µg50%
10 Ramp Recipes to Make Your Cooking Scream Spring
Ramps, the wild leeks native to the forests of eastern North America, are one of the first edible plants to break through the soil in the early spring. Prized for their mild, garlicky flavor, they also have a relatively short season. As such, they’ve been bestowed food-world celebrity status (as far as produce is concerned) and can be challenging to source, whether you’re foraging ramps yourself or picking them up at the farmers’ market.
Along with asparagus, ramps are the hallmark of spring cooking. After weathering winter with hearty root vegetable recipes and warming soup recipes, you’ll be relieved to rotate your produce for new seasonal ingredients. We’re obsessed with ramps cooked, simply, in oil, but they also go so well with eggs. The little guys are incredibly versatile in sauces and salads, but when you need something a little more substantial, look no further than ramp pizza. Preserve your ramps as pickles so you can reach for the allium year round. From escabeche to beurre blanc, here are the very best dishes to get your ramp fix this spring.
How to Cook with Them
From their small white bulb that resembles a spring onion to their large green leaves, every part of a ramp is edible (just trim off the roots at the end of the bulb). Slice ramps thin like garlic or shallots and sauté them for a springtime pasta dish, a breakfast omelet, or rich pan sauce. Or use an entire bunch of ramps in our Universal Pesto Recipe. You could also make a savory compound butter or pickled ramps, both of which will preserve their flavor well beyond April showers and May flowers.
“In general, about ½ lb of fresh ramps sauté down to 1 cup. You will need a food processor or blender to prepare this dish.
1 pound fresh ramps
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup pine nuts
Salt to taste
About 1 teaspoon butter
1/3 cup grated cheese (gruyere, mild cheddar, or pecorino, or a combination)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons unseasoned breadcrumbs (homemade is best)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the ramps and sauté for about 5 minutes, until they are wilted and tender. You will notice them filling with air and then deflating. It’s okay. Be sure to keep moving the ramps around so they don’t scorch.
Place the ramps in a food processor with the pignoli nuts, chicken stock, and salt. Pulse to blend to a rough puree. The ramps will be quite loose and wet.
Butter a baking pan—I used a 9-inch copper pan—and pour in the ramps mixture. Gently toss in the cheese and swirl in the heavy cream. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top and bake for 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the vegetable is piping hot.”
1. Cook the bacon strip until crisp reserving the fat to cook the ramps, chop the bacon into small pieces.
2. Roughly chop the ramps and sauté over medium high heat in the bacon fat until golden brown and soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Mix together the sour cream and cream cheese until smooth and well incorporated. Set aside.
4. When the ramps are soft and golden brown, and little dark bits have formed, add the sugar and wine and stir together. Cook until the majority of the wine is burned off.
5. Add the ramps to the sour cream mixture and stir to combine, adding the bacon pieces as well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy with your favorite chips.
Totally Wild Leek Pesto
Wild leeks replace traditional basil in this pesto recipe. For sweeter pesto, use only the leaves of the wild leeks. For pesto with a bit of a bite, add some of the bulbs. The pesto can be used on pasta, mixed into rice, spread on toast, drizzled on salad, or used as a dipping sauce for vegetables.
How to Prepare Wild Ramps
Since ramps are collected in the forest, they tend to be dirty. The bulb and roots are always coated in dirt, so they must be heavily rinsed. Cut off the roots as close to the bulb as possible, and run the green leaves under water carefully. Bugs, twigs, pine needles and other detritus of the forest floor might hitch a ride on your ramps.
The leaves and bulbs are both edible, though are often cooked separately, as the bulbs take a bit more time to cook through.The bulbs offer a punch of garlic flavor to any dish that might benefit from that: soups, eggs, rice or potato dishes. Ramps can be eaten raw, as you would a scallion, though they will be much stronger in flavor.
Identification & habitat
Ramps occur in Eastern North America from Georgia to Canada. They're easily recognized by their 1, 2, or 3 broad leaves measuring 1 to 3 1/2 inches wide and 4 to 12 inches long.
There are a couple of varieties:
Allium tricoccum var. tricoccum: These have wider leaves and red stems.
Allium tricoccum var. burdickii: Also known as narrow-leaf or white ramps.
White-stemmed narrow-leaf ramps (Allium tricoccum var. burdickii) tend to have a milder flavor than the red-stemmed variety. They also have smaller leaves (up to 1 1/2 inches wide), as well as smaller bulbs.
Ramp leaves appear in early April and last until around mid-May. As May temperatures get warmer, the leaves will turn yellow and die.
Look for them underneath dense deciduous forest canopy in soil that's rich with organic matter.
In general, Narrow-leaf ramps are more likely to be found in more well-drained, dryer woods, while red-stemmed ramps prefer damper soil.
That being said, it's not uncommon to find both varieties growing side-by-side.
There are some dangerous look-alikes so be sure the plants you pick smell like onion or garlic.
Do not pick the dangerous Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) or False hellebore (Veratrum genus) by mistake.
Again, make sure they smell like onion or garlic. If you're unsure, let a knowledgeable forager confirm your find or just pass on picking.
It may also be helpful to consult multiple references for more positive identification.
The Most Delicious Ramp Butter
Ramps, a seasonal treat in the Northeast US, are in danger of being over-harvested. Since they are very slow to cultivate and difficult to farm, foraging is still the main way to find them. A wild ramp patch can be quickly overrun and destroyed. The most sustainable way to harvest ramps, if you find them yourself, is to cut only one leaf of each plant, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. We’ve adapted the recipe below to use only the ramp leaves, and you’ll find ramps in this form from sustainable vendors.
“Ahem,” [Taps mic, looks around nervously]. “It all started around . . It was like they were giving it away, you know? We just thought, ‘hey, these are pretty good!’. We didn’t understand. We didn’t know what would happen.” [Squares shoulders, takes deep breath]. “My name is Emily, and I am addicted to ramps.”
This is me at the farmer’s market during ramp season:
I feel a tiny bit bad about evangelizing a vegetable that can be very hard to find but this was just too good not to share. Making ramp butter, along with pickling, is one of the best ways to preserve ramps so you can enjoy them all year round.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with ramps, I’m going to shamelessly cut and paste the description from our last ramp post, Brown Butter Ramps and Oyster Mushrooms on Ricotta Crostini
Your basic ramp, Allium tricoccum, is a North American species of wild onion that grow across eastern Canada and the eastern United States. (The European/Asian variety is allium ursinum.) I know that doesn’t sound very exciting but they have a unique oniony-garlicky flavor that, if you like that kind of thing, is really fantastic. They are also notoriously difficult to cultivate and their growing season is very short, so they are a true delicacy. That means crazy people (me), will travel far and wide to find them, so if you’re lucky enough to have them in your region, don’t expect to saunter over to the farmer’s market at noon and expect to find any left (because I got there at 7 and bought them all).
This is nothing more than a compound butter (or Beurre composé in French), which itself is nothing more than softened butter that has been flavored with … stuff. You can use anchovies, capers, any herb or spice. Curry, chiles, garlic, lemon. If you’re looking for ideas, Bon Appétit has a fantastic variety of recipes.
This ramp butter is incredibly simple and really lets the flavor of the ramps shine through. I decided to blanch the ramps which mellows the intensity just a bit, and also sets the color so the leaves will stay bright green. You can absolutely use the ramps raw, but I think the flavor is a little nice this way.
If you don’t have a food processor (or don’t feel like getting it out. We’ve all been there), just mince the ramps fine with a knife and stir them into the softened butter).
I like to keep a little bit a texture, but you can process it until it’s perfectly smooth if you want.
So what do you actually do with ramp butter (other than deliver it to my house and give it to me)? So many things.
Here are just a few ideas
- Let a slice melt over grilled steak or vegetables.
- Rub some under and over the skin of a chicken (or chicken pieces) before roasting.
- Add some to the top of poached or pan-seared fish.
- Add thin disks between slices of a parboiled potato, then roast it until golden.
- Toss some into hot pasta, and add grated parmesan.
- Scramble a few eggs and when they’re almost set, add a tablespoon or two and mix in.
- Slather on grilled bread.
- Rub on corn.
Simple Sautéed Ramps
Ramps are wild spring leeks, available in the Northeast for only the spring months after which they flower and lose their pungency. Unlike most vegetables, which through globalization and factory farming are available virtually all year round, ramps remain available only for about 3 months. In recent years, ramps have appeared in menus at numerous high end restaurants and have even been celebrated at “ramp festivals” throughout the east coast.
|Ramps at the Borough Hall Greenmarket|
The amount of attention given to a simple wild leek was perhaps the inspiration for the always entertaining “Shut Up Foodies” blog’s admonition to “please stop talking about ramps.” You know what, I don’t care. They’re delicious. And I’m only too happy it’s ramp season again.
For me, ramps are best by themselves as a side dish fried in olive oil or butter and served simply with salt and pepper or with a few spices (garam masala and chili powder work well or a little pimentón or even just some cumin). I also enjoy them as a topping for pizza.
Here’s a recipe for simple sautéed ramps with ramps that I got at the excellent Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket ($2.50 for the bunch). Enjoy while it’s still spring! Serve with other spring dishes like vegetarian chili with tofu.
Simple Sautéed Ramps
1 bunch ramps, usually a little less than 1/2 pound
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
salt and pepper
1. Cut the roots off the ramps and discard. Wash the ramps thoroughly. Then separate the white bulbs from the leaves. Leave the bulbs whole and make 2 or 3 horizontal cuts on the leaves.
2. In a non-stick pan over medium high heat, add the butter or olive oil. When the oil gets hot or the butter bubbles but doesn’t turn brown, add the white bulbs and sauté 2 minutes until the bulbs turn translucent. Then add the leaves and sauté another 2 minutes until the leaves wilt. Add salt and pepper and serve.
Yield: 2 side dish servings