Foodies think “spring” and they are hungry for young, green, tender vegetables that speak to the growing warmth of the season.
The special of the day in many restaurant on the East Coast in the spring is probably a dish featuring ramps. Ramps or wild leeks grow up and down the East Coast from the Carolinas to Canada. They, along with other early herbs and vegetables, are the harbingers of spring. Ramps are celebrated in Ramps The Cookbook: Cooking with the Best Kept Secret of the Appalachian Trail (St. Lynn’s Press 2012). Glen Facemire, of the Ramp Farm, writes in the introduction:
My mother would cold pack the ramps in half gallon jars to last us through the winter. When spring arrived we would start all over and enjoy the fresh ramps, along with poke greens, fiddlehead ferns, and mushrooms. Where I was raised, the logging camps in the spring of the year always had an air about them that was the aroma of ramps cooking. (p. iv)
Glen provides many of the best recipes. Todd Gray of Equinox contributed a forward to this collection. There are step-by-step pictures to help you forage for ramps and prepare them once you find them.
The recipes start with the main event – Sides & Main Dishes and then work through Salads & Soups, Ramps & Eggs, etc. You might just want Pickled Ramps (p. 6) to eat with your spring lamb, or Caramelized Ramps (p. 8) to serve with a baguette. A recipe from Mario Batali for One Hour Calamari in Umido with Ramp Bruschetta (pp. 16-17) calls for grilling the ramps and then combining them with marjoram and spreading this mixture on bread. Portland, Oregon’s Firehouse Restaurant chef Timothy Wastell contributed a recipe for Wild Ramp Lemon Risotto (pp. 30-31) with white wine. A recipe for Ramps, Morels & Fresh Peas with Poached Eggs (pp. 68-9) captures practically all the fresh tastes of spring in one dish.
At the back of the book there is a guide to preserving ramps for year-round use by pickling, dehydrating, and making pesto. There is also a list of Ramp Festivals and Events in the US and Canada (pp. 106-109) as well as a guide to companies that sells both bulbs and seeds. (pp. 110-111).
Are you visiting friends for the weekend in the countryside? Bring them Ramps and then go out foraging for these glorious onions of spring.