With Spring here, the Hudson Valley has so much to offer. Ramps, Alliums (family of ramps), Morels, Fiddleheads, Asparagus, and Chives all come up out of the ground for all to enjoy once again.
They say Ramps dominate the “foodie scene”, they take over the Spring menus of NY restaurants, and they are only known to grow on the east coast, possibly in Canada also. Unless you know where there is a large patch of them, they can run up to $20.00 per pound.
They are the first plant in the Spring that grows on the forest floors among rocks or at the bottom of trees, along streams, giving us the first bite of Spring. Ramps are tender and sweet in the early Spring. You want to get them as early as possible, as time goes on and it gets warmer out they will become tougher and not as sweet. They are usually out for 8 weeks a year.
They are not leeks, scallions or shallots. They are smaller and more delicate. They grow with a white bulb under ground and have one or two flat broad green leaves. The two leaves into one stem which can be purple or completely white popping above ground, I have both purple and white.
Their taste is stronger than a leek and more pungent than a scallion. Their flavor is a cross between a green garlic and a sweet onion, very garlicky and savory. Somebody just dropped another bag of them off at the Inn and as I sit here all I smell is garlic, you gotta love it!
They can be served whole or delicately chopped for sauteing, grilled, pickled (to preserve) or how about Ramp Pesto?
I made the Ramp pesto and found it utterly delicious. The biggest job is cleaning them, getting all the dirt, leaves, sticks, the earth and what not off of them. If you find them by a stream use the stream to clean them, like it is a outside sink. Then put them into a container of cold water. You can cover them with a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, changing the water every other day like you would with flowers.
I am making 3 different kinds of Pesto. One is just like basil pesto except you do not have to use any garlic, the Ramp has all the garlic flavor you need. My second batch I added Ricotta for a creamer texture and the third I added feta to make it a dip for crackers.
20 – 25 Ramps, cleaned, green leaves, white and purple stems
1/2 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup parm cheese
1/4 tsp of cracked black pepper
1/2 lemon juiced, to keep that green color
(If adding ricotta, I added 3 tbs., if adding feta I added 2 tbs of chunky
feta piled high on the spoon)
In your food processor add the Ramps chopped up, cracked pepper, pine nuts and parm cheese.
Turn on and drizzle the olive oil into the food processor for a smooth texture.
Rinse your lemons, cut in half and juice half a lemon into your creamy pesto and turn processor on to incorporate the juice into your Ramp pesto. As simple as that!
You can refrigerate up to a week or put them in the freezer, which is what I do. I also have a line of people waiting for some of this pesto, I wonder who will get these? I had a burger the other night and spread the Ramp pesto on the bottom of the bun, no ketchup please when you use the pesto, I did add sliced tomatoes. The next night I made Ramp pesto pizza topped with lots of fresh parm cheese. Yummy!!
– Patti Vincent