Ramps have become a darling of the Spring vegetable world, with farmers markets ablaze in consumers and chefs vying for the garlicky, pungent flavor. In short, they’re delicious if food instagrammers and chefs are to be believed. This green onion/leek relative is also known scientifically as allium tricoccum, and their growth spans from Appalachia all the way up to Quebec.
Every season, chefs have an opportunity to expand their menu in unique and delicious ways, and season for this vegetable often runs short.
To us, this means that ramps can lend their flavor to a wide variety of foods, much like their allium counterparts. But why are they so special?
Short Season, Picky Growth
Did you know that there is a black market for ramps?
Ramps are not cultivated, but are harvested wild. Much like morels and other foraged foods, this means that there are limits to availability. To maintain ramps year after year, only about 10% of wild ramps can be harvested to ensure a steady supply of this wild crop. Because they’re foraged, the labor involved in harvesting ramps also drives up their prices.
Farmers Markets in areas that sell them are often bursting at the seams, specifically in demand for this elusive vegetable. Quebec, as an example, has banned the commercial sale of ramps due to conservation concerns. In fact, if you’re caught with more than 5 bulbs, you may get slapped with a $500 fine!
Many chefs find satisfaction across the border into Ontario, through poachers. They’re not harvested illegally. It is not criminalized within the borders of Ontario. In fact, they’re just as wild about this crop as anyone else!
As you can see, they’ve become a hot commodity.
How to Prepare and Shop for Ramps
When you’re receiving ramps, the greens should be dark green, with no translucency and in good condition. That stalk should be thinner, as thicker ramps tend to taste woodier. The entire ramp should range from 10-14” in length.
Ramps are known for being pickled –which only serves to extend the Spring bounty– but as they’ve grown in popularity, other cooking methods have now been employed this vegetable onto center stage. You can easily roast or grill them, they’re a delight in pesto, or as a replacement for garlic.
Just make sure you clean them well…
Common Mistakes with Ramps
Cleaning Ramps – Many people think leeks are the kings of holding dirt, but we assure you, the ramp gives the leek some stiff competition. Clean them gently before storage, as the leaves are delicate.
Treat them gently – They’re delicate and full of beautiful flavor compounds that will degrade more quickly at room temperature. Wrap them gently in paper towels and store in a plastic container, or unsealed plastic bags.
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