As promised, last week we gave you tips for how to hunt for ramps (a type of wild leek), and now we’re giving you some recipes for three ways to put ramps to work in your cooking: pickling them, turning them into a pesto, and wrapping them around roasted fish.
Hunting For Wild Leeks
The weather is never predictable in early spring, and neither are the plants that thrive during this time of year. Ramps only pop up for a few weeks each year, usually mid-April through early May, when it’s still cool at night, in the 60s and 70s during the day, and rainy. As temperatures get hotter, they bolt, go to seed, and then wait for next season.
But according to Chef Bob Adkins, they are worth all the trouble it can take to find them out in the wild.
“They’re a member of the onion family,” he says, “but they taste like some of the most pleasant garlic and onion flavor you could ever have really.”
And they’re versatile because the leaves are so tender, Adkins says. ” They can be pureed almost like basil for a pesto. They can be sautéed like spinach. They can even be eaten raw, small amounts tossed into salads to give an extra kick. The maroon and the white parts are more for solely cooking. But you toss them with, scrambled eggs or home fries and bacon.”
Listen: Chef Bob Adkins tells you everything you need to know about foraging for ramps.
Recipe: Pickled Ramps
- Ramps, bulb and red part of the stems, leaves removed (enough to fill your pickling jar)
(for the brine)
- 2 cups vinegar
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2-3 teaspoons salt
- bay leaves
- cinnamon stick
- crushed red pepper
- coriander seeds
- fennel seeds
- Bring vinegar, sugar, and spices to one boil. Remove from heat.
- Add brine to standard glass pickling jar. Temper the jar by adding liquid little by little, making sure all of the spices make their way into the jar.
- Seal the jar using your normal canning procedure and let ramps soak for 10 days to 2 weeks. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a year.
After you’ve cracked open your jar of pickles, Chef Orr says, you can use the vinegar to flavor vinaigrettes and sauces and then pull out the ramps and eat them just like pickles — with a cheese platter or with smoked meats — or, chop them up and put them in a sauce or sprinkle them on top of a roasted fish.
Recipe: Ramp Pesto
- ramps (leaves only, blanched)
- olive oil
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (finely grated)
- crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
- pinch of salt
- your favorite hot sauce (to taste)
- To blanche the ramp leaves (this sets their color and tenderizes them, making it easier to process them in the blender): drop the leaves into boiling salt water and cook until tender. Plunge ramps into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
- Coarsely chop the blanched ramp leaves and add to a high powered blender with the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and about 1/4 cup of olive oil.
- Start blending, adding 1/4 oil to every 2 cups of blanched ramps you add to the blender. The result should be a nice thick puree.
- Adjust seasoning and add hot sauce to taste. If you’re going to freeze the pesto, this is the point where you’ll want to stop, put it in small containers (or an ice cube tray) and freeze it (cheese doesn’t freeze well, so that should be added when you thaw it back out).
- Add parmesan cheese and blend a bit more to finish. Serve over pasta or with fish…as in our bonus recipe…
Bonus: Roasted Fish Wrapped In Ramps
If you haven’t had enough ramps yet…here’s a super simple recipe for roasted fish wrapped in ramps.
- Take the ramp greens, blanche them in hot boiling salted water, and shock them in ice water (as with the pesto above).
- Wrap the ramps around little pieces of cod and sauté them, being sure to not overcook the fish (it should be translucent in the center and more opaque on the outside)
- Present the roasted, ramp wrapped cod on a plate with a bit of ramp pesto and a little red wine sauce. Drizzled with a little bit of fresh lemon juice and garnish with fresh herbs.
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- Anonymous Teacher “Mrs. Q” Is Fed Up With School Lunch (Extended Interview)
Pickled, pesto’d, and packaged…Three ways to prepare ramps. We’d love to know if you’ve tried your hand at foraging for ramps and how you cook them. Send us photos, recipes or just tell us what you thought of this episode — leave a comment or drop us an e-mail.