Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.
Recently a friend of mine gifted me a kitchen-sized garbage bag of ramps she had pulled from her backyard. I was thankful (really I was and I told her so) and smelled the garlicky, oniony aromas of this spring allium seep from the bag and into my nostrils while I wondered what do with them.
So what are ramps exactly? No, I am not talking about the inclined angled surface that allows you to go from low to high or high to low without the need for steps. These ramps are edible, a species of wild onion that pop out from the ground each spring and related to both leeks and shallots. They look like leafy green onions (scallions) and the flavor is both sweet and pungent.
But allure of the ramp is in its scarcity as the growing season is only about three weeks. Ramps like higher elevations and cooler temperatures, shady areas with rocky soil, and disappear once the temperatures move to summer-like.
You may have seen ramps at farmer’s markets and not really known how to use them, or they may be growing around you in tree knolls or along the side of a tree-shaded road. They are a “tone” flavor according to Epicurious, adding a little something interesting, not quite onion, not quite garlic, that renders an ordinary dish special.
If you receive a bag of ramps from a friend or manage to forage some in the wild, here are 13 ways to use them:
Ramp Dip: Grab a package of Neufchatel cheese or cream cheese (Neufchatel contains less fat than cream cheese) and mix in 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and 3/4 cup minced ramps until well-incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for about six hours before serving.
Ramp-infused Olive Oil: Take a pint of your favorite olive oil and a bunch of ramps. Remove the white part of ramps and reserve for another use. Roughly chop the green part of ramps and put into a jar. Shake and a cover and refrigerate for a week. Strain through cheesecloth.
Baked Potato Topping: Chop ramps, tomatoes and crumbled feta cheese and mix with a little olive oil and put on top of a baked potato. Bake until cheese is slightly brown.
Ramp Pesto: Instead of basil use ramps! Combine ramp leaves, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With the food processor running, add olive oil and process everything until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl and mix in grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt to taste.
Ramp Quiche: As with the oil this recipe uses the leaves and not the white parts. Try it here.
Potato Salad: Use ramps instead of garlic or onions in your favorite potato salad recipe and watch it transform your tastebuds.
Ramp Sea Salt: Create your own seasoning using ramps! Use your favorite sea salt, blend with raw ramps, then let dry. Sprinkle on anything, from grilled meats to scrambled eggs.
Ramp Marinated Feta: If you are a feta fan like me, you’ll love this. You simply take feta, dried ramps, salt, pepper, and chili powder and put everything into an a large jar. Add as much olive oil so feta is completely covered. Cover jar and marinate in a cool space for 1 to 2 days. Use up within a few days. This is fantastic spread on toasted sourdough bread.
Ramp Omelette: Throw ramps into your egg mixture along with your favorite cheese and whip up an amazing omelette. Or scramble your eggs instead. You may want to sprinkle some ramp sea salt on the finished product.
Spaghetti Ramps: Similar to pesto but with no pine nuts.
Ramp Butter: This is fab! Take two sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature and cream in chopped ramps, either by hand or an electric mixer. Add salt to your taste and transfer to a dish or parchment paper and put in refrigerator until hardened.
Ramp Pasta With Tomato and Bacon: Ramps and pasta are a marriage made in culinary heaven. The acidity of fresh tomatoes and saltiness of bacon pair deliciously with wild ramps. Toss with penne as suggested or your favorite short pasta shape.
Ramp Mayo: Like the butter you’ll want to try adding ramps to mayo. It’s great on grilled fish, as a sandwich spread and, of course, potato salad.