Cooking with Ramps

Ramps, bulbs intact

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.

Ramps: leaves-only harvest

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 often harvest just the leaves from them. That way the plants are not killed. I have also planted some of the harvested ramps and have had friends do the same, to start stands of them in new places.

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

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 mix equal parts of butter and ramps.  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

Ramp Oil

The process is similar to making ramp butter, but you use oil instead of butter. I used a lemon infused 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.  I placed the cleaned 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.

Salmon with Ramp Butter 

2 salmon sides



1 c. ramp butter

2 lemons, sliced thin

Place the salmon on parchment paper and season with salt and pepper. Spread ramp butter down the center of each salmon side. Use about 1/2 cup on each one. Place lemon slices on top of the ramp butter.  Bake the salmon in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Rest 5 minutes before serving. Serves 16.

Salmon with Ramp Butter
Salmon with Ramp Butter: right out of the oven

Pickled Ramps

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.

Creamy Ramp Soup

1 lb. ramps

1/2 large sweet onion such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons oil

1/3 cup dry white wine

3 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Garnish:extra-virgin olive oil

Trim roots from ramps and slip off outer skins if loose. Cut green tops from ramps and coarsely chop enough greens to measure 3 cups (reserve remainder for another use). Thinly slice ramp bulbs, including pink stems. Cook ramp bulbs, onion, white pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add wine, then boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until evaporated completely. Add broth and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until onions and ramps are very soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in ramp greens and boil 1 minute.Working in batches, purée soup in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute per batch (use caution when blending hot liquids), then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids. Return soup to cleaned pot and bring just to a boil. Whisk in cheese and butter until smooth. Season with salt. Serves 4.

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