With a flavor reminiscent of both onions and garlic, ramps are a beautiful sight to behold at spring markets. They’re versatile and incredibly delicious. So what are ramps and how to you use them in recipes?
What are ramps, when are they available, and where do you buy them? I get so many questions about these little gems. Ramps (allium tricoccum) are wild spring onions, also referred to as wild leeks. They look similar to scallions, but with feathery leaves on top and a purple-tinted stalk.
The entire ramp is edible, though you should remove the hairy roots connected to the bulb (more on that below). Their flavor is like a delicate garlic/onion hybrid, making ramps perfect for a variety of culinary applications.
When Are Ramps in Season?
Ramps are harvested during spring and early summer, and they tend to come and go in the blink of an eye if you’re not paying attention. Look for them at farmers markets from April through May (or early June at the absolute latest).
Part of the reason people go nuts for ramps is due to their lack of availability. Ramps prefer high altitude and low light, and as soon as it gets hot out, that’s the end of the season. Picking season varies a bit each year, but typically only lasts around 2-3 weeks total.
Some higher end grocery stores like Whole Foods and Wegman’s will often carry them (call ahead to make sure). If you don’t see them in the produce section, ask an employee! Sometimes they’re hiding in the back, as I’ve learned from personal experience.
How to Choose
Fresh ramps should have bright, deep green leaves, purplish stems, and a small white bulb. Look for thinner stalks. The leaves are typically around 6 inches long. Yellowing and/or withering leaves indicates that they’re past their prime.
How to Store
Store in the refrigerator wrapped tightly to keep them from losing moisture. Use as quickly as possible.
How to Clean and Cut
- Remove the papery outer layer from the bulb by peeling it with your fingers.
- Use a paring or chef’s knife to remove the hairy roots.
- Use a chef’s knife to separate the leaves from the bulbs and stalks.
- Thoroughly rinse the bulbs and leaves under cold water to remove any dirt. (Note: ramps can get even more muddy than leeks, so clean them well. You can also start by giving them a soak in cold water to help loosen up any stubborn dirt.)
- Thinly slice the bulbs and stalks similar to how you would cut scallions, into either straight rounds or diagonally.
- Stack the leaves and chop them, or roll and then slice them into thin strips.
How to Cook
Ramps can be served either raw or cooked. You can serve them raw in salads, or sprinkle over soup, grains, grilled meats or seafood, and pasta (anywhere that you might garnish with scallions). They make a wonderful pesto, and can also be pickled, grilled, sautéed, caramelized and pureed.
Pesto is one of my favorite ways to use fresh ramps. It’s easy to freeze pesto, making it the perfect way to preserve them to enjoy long after the season has ended.
Ramp Pesto Pasta with Pickled Onions
What do you do with all of that pesto? Try my pesto pasta with quick pickled onions. The onions add a wonderful tartness, and pasta is the perfect showcase for these ingredients.
Try these caramelized ramps from The Crepes of Wrath! They’ll add tons of flavor to so many dishes.
Also, if you love eggs for breakfast as much as I do, you don’t want to miss these fried eggs with ramps from NYT Cooking.
James Card says
And if the stalks are thick? Can you cut them and turn the thick stalk into 2 thin ones?
Jennifer Farley says
I don’t see why not!