Friday, May 4, 2012

What are Ramps?

I was at an event recently where they served Ramps.  They included them is a salad, and it was kept a secret who brought them.  Apparently, Ramps are rare, and if you know where to find them, or where a bed of Ramps is located in a woodland, you don't share this information. 

I had no idea there was a "secret society" of Ramp lovers.  In fact, I had never even heard of a Ramp until that night.

I've done some research, and thanks to Diana Rattray of Southern Food, here is an explaination:

The ramp, sometimes called wild leek, is a wild onion native to North America. Though the bulb resembles that of a scallion, the beautiful flat, broad leaves set it apart. According to John Mariani, author of "The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink," the word ramp comes from "rams," or "ramson," an Elizabethan dialect rendering of the wild garlic. Ramps grow from South Carolina to Canada, and in many areas they're considered a spring delicacy and even a reason for celebration. West Virginia is well-known for their many festivals and events in celebration of the ramp. The flavor and odor of ramps is usually compared to a combination of onions and garlic, and the garlic odor is particularly strong. Strong enough, in fact, that even ramp-lovers will advise caution. If you sit down to a big meal of ramps, don't be surprised if people continue to keep their distance after a few days have passed!
Cautions aside, ramps add wonderful and uniquely pungent flavor to soups, egg dishes, casseroles, rice dishes and potato dishes. Use them raw or cooked in any recipe calling for scallions or leeks, or cook them in a more traditional way, scrambled with eggs or fried with potatoes. Since ramps aren't cultivated in the way leeks are, they're much easier to clean. Just cut off roots, rinse thoroughly, and scrub off any excess dirt on the bulbs.
Ramps aren't available for long, but you can chop and freeze them for cooked dishes. The green tops are milder in flavor and are usually used along with the bulbs. I chop about half of the green leaves separately, air-dry them for a few hours then freeze them in an air-tight container for future use as a seasoning.

I went for a walk the other day, and with a keen eye, I noticed some ramps scattered here and there...maybe just enough to try some Ramp and potato soup!!


Stitchfork said...

Huge ramp festival just south of us every year - way out in the boonies. When my brother runs the tractor this time of year at my mom's place you can always smell the oniony smell of ramps when he cuts them amid the grass.

the treat girl said...

This is the first I've ever heard of ramps.......