“Ramping” It Up

Ramps

I had a request from two friends to forage some ramps. I was meaning to get some, but hadn’t done it yet. I used their requests to get me moving. We went to a location where I am allowed to harvest ramps. We each brought home one five gallon bucket of ramps.

If you haven’t tried ramps, you really don’t know what you are missing. Ramps are a member of the onion/allium family. They grow wild in wooded areas and are only around for about a month, during the Spring. They are sometimes called wild leeks or wild onions. Their flavor might best be described as a garlicky leek.

People have been foraging ramps forever. A recent increase in their popularity has put them at risk in some areas. Only pick ramps where it is legal to harvest them. Only purchase ramps from someone who you trust to harvest responsibly. While I love the bulbs, I only have a small patch of ramps in my yard, so I just harvest the leaves from them. That way the plants is not killed.

I first had ramps when I was in college. We were on a weekend scavenger hunt for a biology class. One of my classmates came upon a stand of ramps. She explained to me what they were. We harvested a few and made soup out of them for dinner that night. Our professor, Dr. Peter Gail,  was a forager and he showed us other wild edibles. This is where my love for foraging started.

So here are some of the ways I use my ramps.

Ramp Butter

Ramp butter is a wonderful way to preserve the ramps and a great way to prep them for use in all sorts of recipes. The recipe is pretty simple- ramps, mixed with softened butter, perhaps a little lemon zest and some salt, if desired. The butter is then put in small containers, or shaped into little logs and frozen. Whenever you want some ramp flavor in your cooking, you just spoon out or slice off a bit of ramp butter.

I don’t know that I have a hard and fast “recipe” for ramp butter. I can tell you how I make mine, though.

I like my ramp butter with lots of ramps in it. Ramp forward, if you will.

I also like to blanch my ramps first. I find that blanching the ramps brightens their color, and mellows their flavor just a bit.

Start by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Place cleaned ramps leaves (or leaves and bulbs) in the boiling water. Have a large bowl of ice water handy. After one or two minutes, at the most, drain off the boiling water. Drain the ramps and then submerge them in the ice water. You want to stop the cooking quickly. Once cooled, drain the ramps and squeeze out excess moisture.

I mix equal parts of butter and blanched ramps. The ramps cook down a lot, kind of like spinach, so a cup of squeezed out blanched ramps is quite a few. I had 2 cups of ramps and combined them with 1 pound of unsalted butter. To that amount, I added a tablespoon of lemon zest. You can add some salt to the mix, too. Use a food processor to get the mixture well mixed and to chop the ramps up. I divided the mixture into 6 or seven containers and threw all but one in my freezer. The last container is in my fridge, being used in all sorts of dishes.

Ramp Oil

The process is similar to making ramp butter, but you use oil instead of butter. I used a lemon olive oil and some avocado oil.  I use those oils because I like the flavors, but also because they will freeze solid. For long term storage- ramp oil should be frozen. Any stored in the fridge should be used up in a week or two.

The uses are somewhat similar to ramp butter. You can use some of the ramp oil to make ramp pesto or ramp pasta. You can use it as a base for salad dressing. It is really good added to potato salads.

Prepare the ramps the same way you would for ramp butter. Blanch, drain, chill, squeeze dry. I placed the prepared ramps in a food processor and added about a cup of oil to two cups of ramps. I ran the machine until the mixture was pretty smooth. Add a little more oil, if needed. The mixture should be thick, but pour-able. The flavor is  intensely ramp. That is what I like. I can cut it down with other ingredients later on.

 

I use just the greens for my ramp butter and ramp oil- and save the bulbs to pickle. I made a sweet pickle with them. This is a “quick” pickle product, it is not fermented. You can eat them right away, but the ramp pickles are better if you wait a week or so, before eating. They are stored in the fridge. I used some of my Tuscan seasoning, rather than the more traditional pickling spice. Use what floavors you prefer.

 

Ramp Butter

Ramp Oil

Pickled Ramps

Tomato Pasta, Brussels Sprouts and Fresh Ramps

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrots with Ramp Butter

Ramps with Rice Vermicelli and Chicken in a Cream Sherry Sauce

Our Ramp Harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pickled Ramps

4-5 c. ramp bulbs, some stem attached, if you like

2 c. cider vinegar

1½ c. water

1 c. sugar

2 T. salt

1 T. Tuscan seasoning*

 

Wash ramp bulbs well and remove any roots. In pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour into a heat-proof jar. Cool a little, cover and place in fridge. You can eat the ramp pickles right away, but they taste even better if you wait a few days. Will keep in the fridge for a few months.

 

*Tuscan Seasoning

 

½ c. dried basil

½ c. dried oregano

½ c. dried marjoram

3 T. dried minced onion

2 T. dried minced garlic

2 T. dried rosemary

2 T. dried parsley

1 t. crushed red pepper

 

Combine all. Store in a cool, dry place. Use for any number of recipes, from marinara sauce, to salad dressings.

 

Again, enjoy ramps, but only if they were responsibly harvested.

 

 

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