Ramps are a magical plant in the leek family that signal spring and announce the coming of farmer’s markets and fresh produce here in the northeast. They only appear for about two weeks in April and therefore are in high demand by those in the know. I would see these appear fleetingly on restaurant menus in the days before my plant-based-diet. Now I anticipate them the way a child waits for Santa Claus.
Raw, they taste and smell like a cross between a spring onion and fresh garlic. Cooked, they take on a more savory and definitely milder flavor than either onion or garlic. The whole plant is edible and the large green leafs are actually more complex in flavor that the white slender bulbs. Be careful to clean well and pull off any slimy exterior layer, similar to green onions.
In this second season of cooking ramps I wanted to keep it simple. I recommend a whole grain like farro or wheat berry, along with a simple sautée with an acid and savory ingredients. Here I wilted some shallots in olive oil then added the rough chopped the whole ramp along with lightly toasted pine nuts. As the ramps were just starting to soften, I added the pre-cooked wheat berries and tossed in a medium-low heat with the juice of a 1/4 of a lemon and just long enough to warm the grains. Lightly salt and pepper. You can add some parsley and some more lemon juice or zest at the end but I prefer to keep it simple and allow the ramps to dominate the dish. Along those lines, give the ingredients a chance to blend by cutting the heat to the saute pan and letting the dish ‘rest’ for a couple minutes before serving on to warmed plates.
A savory green leaf lettuce salad with sherry vinaigrette accompanied the ramps along with a spring vino verde wine. This dish is best eaten outdoors, even if the early spring chill requires an extra layer. Enjoy.
(recipe inspired by Farro with ramps and fiddleheads at Sweet Paul)