Ramps and other signs of spring
When I found ramps at the farmer’s market this morning I was so excited. Last spring I picked ramps in Northern Michigan and I don’t seem to have room on the calendar to get to Harbor Springs anytime soon. I thought I was going to have to miss out this year but I got lucky. I have never seen ramps for sale in a grocery store, perhaps because they are relatively perishable. They have gotten a lot of hype lately and are showing up in gourmet food magazines and even made the front page of the New York Times food section a few weeks ago.
Ramps (allium tricoccam) arrive in early spring and are also called wild leeks, ramson, spring onion, wild garlic. To me, they look a bit like the green portion of Lilly of the Valley flowers. They taste like a combination of garlic, onion, shallot and leek. The entire ramp can be eaten, similar to a green onion or scallion.
Last year when I came across ramps while walking in the woods, Craig wasn’t sure he would give them a try. He usually holds back when I find any number of things in the woods to eat. His plan is to be the one who doesn’t get ill so that he can drive everyone else to the hospital. He is never convinced I know what I come across in the woods. So far, no one has ever gotten ill eating wild berries, ramps or wintergreen berries. I do stay away from eating mushrooms found in the woods. They are a bit trickier to navigate than other food finds. Craig did eventually eat ramps last year and really enjoyed them.
This time I made ramp pesto and it is really tasty. I’m planning to serve it over pasta and I’ll toss in some fresh Michigan asparagus and shrimp. If you can’t find ramps in your neck of the woods, you could skip the ramps and add 1 to 2 cloves of garlic instead.
Ramps can have a pretty strong garlic flavor so you have a couple of options for this recipe; if you like a more subtle flavor; use only the greens from the ramps. If you love a strong garlic flavor, add the entire ramp to the mix. Or, split the difference, and use all the greens and just half of the “bulbs” of the ramp. That’s what I did and I really like the garlic flavor but it’s not too overwhelming. I am going to sauté the remaining bulbs of ramps and toss them into the pasta mix.
Ramp, parsley and spinach pesto
½ cup walnuts
½ cup olive oil
4 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
1 bunch of ramps (about 15-20 ramps)
1 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
½ cup grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese
Pinch of salt
Add all to food processor, pulse until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Keeps covered in refrig for 3 to 4 days or freezes