"Ramps! Ramps! Ramps! Ramps!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

...I echoed throughout the farmers market yesterday afternoon. I could hardly contain my delight and unabashed excitement. Ramps are in season! Ramps are in season!!!

Chances are you won't find these suckers in your backyard or even the market, so if you have a farmers market around you may want to start visiting that about now. Ramps are a wild leek, similar in appearance to a scallion but tasting more like garlic. They have a wonderful punch of strong onion-garlic flavor but are small and skinny, so they work really, really well within dishes. The entire ramp is edible, from the white root to the extremely tender green leaves. You can grill them, roast them, fry them, or leave them raw but that's probably only if you like to eat garlic raw.

Ramps are natives of North American. Most popular in the Appalachians in the south all the way up to Quebec in Canada, they are a wildly loved seasonal treat. Ramp season is extremely short -- only about 4 weeks -- adding to their mystique and specialness. They are an early-mid spring treat, so now's the time. If you see some at the markets be sure to grab some.

Some ideas for you when working with ramps:

Quick grill is great -- a little olive oil, salt and pepper and very quick char on the grill. Be wary however that these guys are a lot skinnier and more delicate than their leek and scallion cousins, so you may want to use an indoor grill or vegetable tray on your charcoal grill.

Pan-Roasting is my favorite. If you do a quick saute of butter and olive oil with other spring vegetables like English peas, baby carrots, and mushrooms you can add these guys in as well. They will cook in just 3 minutes.

Raw -- slice them up as you would a scallion to flavor salads or dressings.

Being of the onion-garlic family, they go with anything. Last night for dinner I picked up some gorgeous Copper River Salmon (my favorite) from Pike Market down in Seattle and some ramps. I pan-seared the salmon with simple salt and pepper and then added the ramps in the same pan last 3 minutes of cooking.

It was amazing. The sweet salmon against the more pungent ramps, the crust on the salmon and the tender wilted ramps made for a perfect simple meal.

Now go get some ramps!

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