Here, in the woods of northern Vermont, as in many other wooded areas (none the least of which is the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia), the ramp, or wild leek, is one of the great springtime forageable foods. I’ve never heard of anyone cultivating them, so it makes for a great excuse for a hike, complete with mud boots, a shovel, buckets and a little determination in your stride. This has been the focus of several outings over the past month, and we have been rewarded, handsomely.
I hesitated before posting about one of my favorite springtime treats (if you call an onion a treat), since the Huffington Post recently published concerns about possible overharvesting. It is recommended that one harvest no more than 10% from any given area per year, and then give that area a full decade to rejuvenate before harvesting there again. I am not encouraging going on a wild leek rampage, but if I take this article to suggest that the ramp is becoming increasingly appreciated, then I write in support of its growing popularity and offer a few delicious things to do with them.
Curious about how and where to find ramps: here are some great foraging tips.
Curious about their nutritional value: They belong to the Allium family (ranked “Superfood #2 by Dr. Perricone), and appreciated for their health benefits as a springtime tonic, primarily believed to cleanse the blood. Ramps are remarkably high in vitamins A and C, and also boast a significant about of iron, selenium, chromium, calcium and fiber.
Curious about how to eat them:
Spinach and Ramp Filo Rolls with Grilled Ramps
1. Enjoy them raw, in the woods. You should bring a shovel to dig them out of the ground. They like where they are, and are a bit resistant to letting go…but once you’ve got one, you can enjoy it right there. Although covered in mud, you can easily strip off the outer layer revealing a perfectly clean little leek. Holding on to this outer layer, snap off the roots at the bottom and you have a clean ramp, ready to eat. Be prepared to sacrifice your sweet-smelling breath for the rest of the day, and dig in.
2. Enjoy them raw, at home. You can do the same at home, with the added benefit of running water to more thoroughly rid them of mud. My daughter recommends having them this way, dipped into Soy Vay teriyaki sauce.
3. Potato-Ramp soup. Similar to potato-leek soup (using a recipe such as this one), but more fun since you’re using ramps which you dug up in the woods. The green leaves, cut very thinly, make a beautiful fresh garnish. I made this for the Teacher Appreciation Day luncheon at my children’s school.
4. Stock. Since I didn’t use very many of the greens in the soup (I didn’t want to affect the final color). I thought I would draw a stock from them. Fill a large pot of water, toss in all the left-over green ramp leaves (and any other vegetable trimmings you have) and boil. Use the resultant garlicy-oniony broth for any recipe calling for stock. Delicious.
5. Grilled. Brush them with a bit of olive oil and place them directly on the grill. The bulbs become soft and sweet, while the leaves turn crispy. Simply delicious.
6. Spinach and Ramp Filo Rolls. This is what I made for dinner. I added some sorrel, since it is another one of those rare spring-time harvestables, and it is bursting with fresh green leaves in my garden right now. You can find the recipe here.
7. Rampy Hummus. Make hummus as you normally would (here’s a simple recipe), substituting sliced ramps for chopped garlic. Garnish with thinly sliced ramp greens for a beautiful dish.
8. Rampy Pesto. Ramps can also be used instead of garlic when making pesto. Use both the bulb and the green leaves in a recipe with the customary basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts and/or walnuts.