by Shanna Snider on April 13th, 2012
Ramps are all the craze nowadays! Naturally, I decided it was time to embrace this popular ingredient and try something new. To my great surprise, it turns out ramps and I go way back. It’s been 20 years but I could never forget that smell. Let’s start at the beginning, long before I learned to stir…just imagine…
Rays of sunshine fall from the sky warming chubby cheeks. A crisp, cool breeze rustles the sprouting leaves as winter finally comes to an end. The grass is turning green and flowers are in bloom all around. After months of being locked inside, my short legs run with enthusiasm as I sprint through the fields in search of a familiar, long awaited spring time smell.
Sweet honeysuckle emanates from my neighbor’s yard.
Wet soil after an afternoon shower promises new growth and green.
Bright floral scents drift down from colorful trees, bringing everything to life.
But those aren’t the scents I’m searching for. My spring time smell was not so easy to find. Digging through the soft soil, I pluck the leafy green plants out of the ground, rub the sturdy white bulb through my fingertips and inhale the smell of tangy garlic and onion. I’ve been waiting all year for this mystery plant to grow and while my friends run by in a flash, I stoop down to the ground to take in the aroma of ramps.
“Shannie Bananie” running through the grass in search of ramps!
I left the small ramps growing region when I was 8 years old and have not been back since. But that smell, that long awaited mouth watering smell, never left my memory. I have finally returned to the east and this time as a knife wielding food enthusiast ready to put those ramps to good use!
Ramps are mild and sweet with a garlicky onion flavor. The white bulb is ideal for sautéing because unlike scallions, ramps maintain that crisp snap giving the delicious flavor some fun texture too. The best way to enjoy ramps year-round is, of course, to pickle them. From mid-April to May you can find these “wild leeks” sprouting from Alabama all the way up the east coast. You won’t find them in your normal grocery store so check out specialty food stores like Whole Foods or Farmers Markets.
For the first time in 20 years, I am going to rub that delicious plant through my fingers, take in the familiar scent and smile. Spring is officially here.
Like I said, the season doesn’t last long so hurry to your local grocer or Farmers Market for some spring time flavor before they’re gone!! Here’s some great recipes to get you ramped up for ramps:
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- For detailed directions on growing, picking, storing and cooking ramps visit the expert: leslieland.com
- Pair creamy and bright in a Ramp Risotto
- From Serious Eats, a recipe I’m super excited about: Pork and Ramp Dumpling
- Most traditional of ramp recipes: Fried Eggs with Bacon and Ramps
I’m making wild ramp pesto to stash away in the freezer. Take that long winter days! You can’t get me down when I have Spring ready at any time! What will you do with your ramps?