For many spring time foragers spring is all about finding Morel mushrooms. I like Morels just as much as the next guy but for me, spring is all about ramps or wild leeks as some may call them. Ramps are a perfect combination of onion and garlic flavor packaged into a beautiful green leaf with a red stalk that ends in a white bulb. Although it is not a true bulb and considered to be more of an underground swelling every part of the ramp is edible and can be enjoyed in hundreds of different ways.
Ramps start showing up early in the spring just as the weather starts to warm up. Ramps can be eaten all through the year but only in the early parts of spring do you get the broad green leaves. Eventually the leaves fall off and a single flower raises up from the root. The white bulb can get a little tough as the summer goes on so the spring time ramp is usually the best for cooking and eating. Once you find an area that is holding ramps you can dig them up and enjoy them much the same as you would other onions. Before you dig however, you should check with your local DNR to find out if digging is allowed. Many State parks allow foraging but you are not allowed to dig up plants.
Because ramps are so seasonal I try to find as many recipes that will extend my ramp eating as far into the summer as possible. I like to pickle some of the ramps that I forage so that I can keep them throughout the year. I make a delectable Ramp and Nettle chimichurri that freezes very nicely and I can use that all summer on grilled meats and fish. With that in mind I started to explore other ways of using ramps that I can freeze and use later. Ramp pesto instantly came to mind and after reading about ramp butter I just had to make that as well. The ramp pesto was amazing and tasted as fresh and light as a pasta sauce can possible taste. I grilled some venison steaks sprinkled with Nettle salt and cut a nice slab of ramp butter to top it. The ramp butter was heavenly, adding a creamy garlic herby freshness to my steak. The great thing about these recipes is that they Will stay good in the freezer for many months.
I recently wrote a post For Simple, Good and Tasty all about foraging and in that post I included a recipe of mine for a grilled ramp and asparagus salad. That recipe is a variation of my original recipe that was included in a Book all about ramps called Ramps: Cooking with the best kept secret of the Appalachian Trail.If you are interested in learning about Ramps and cooking them I highly recommend picking up a copy. There are some magnificent recipes in it ranging from sweet and sour ramps to ramp jam. If you do get a copy Check out page 42, I think it the best one.
2 cups diced ramps (leaves and stalks)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place the first 4 ingredients into a food processor and mix add olive oil until you reach the desired consistency you would like then add salt and pepper to taste.
2 sticks of unsalted butter
5-6 whole ramps
salt to taste
Pulse the ramps in a food processor then add to sticks of softened butter and pulse until thoroughly combined wrap in cling wrap and place back into refrigerator, if you would like you can roll the butter into logs as it starts to get firm.