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What are ramps, anyway?

 

Glad you asked!

 

Ramps are wild baby leeks that grow exclusively between the Atlantic and the Mississippi from Canada to the Carolinas. A member of the allium (or lily) family, ramps resemble a scallion with broader leaves. They taste a little bit garlicky and a little bit savory, a welcome taste of sweetness after a cold and dreary winter. Ramps are the first sign that spring is here, so I am never happier than when I see ramps for the first time each season.

 

The beauty of ramps is that they are only in season for eight weeks a year. As a cook who gets excited about wild foraged foods, I love the transience of ramps. For the few short weeks during which they are available, I put ramps in everything.

 

A couple weeks ago, Susi, Leo, Benno and I went north to pick ramps in the Columbia County woods. At a Manhattan farmer’s market, these little leeks sell for $22 per pound. In the woods, ramps grow like weeds.

 

During late April and early May, New York chefs go crazy for ramps. They are without a doubt the trendiest of the lilies (so prevalent on restaurant menus that they made the New York Times Sunday Magazine’s “Meh” list). Ramps benefit from their exceptional versatility. Ramps can be served whole or chopped; grilled, sautéed or pickled; with eggs, chicken, or fish.

 

Choose ramps that are firm with bright-colored greenery. Wrap them tightly in moist paper towels and place them in a loosely closed paper bag and refrigerate for up to a week. Trim the root ends just before cooking.

 

May is the latter half of ramp season. To preserve the transient taste of spring, we pickle ramps to use throughout the year. Pickled ramps can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks or they can be canned or shelf-stored and saved for up to a year.

 

Click here for my favorite ramps recipe!