Yesterday I ate ramps for the first time, and my tastebuds totally exploded! Now if you’re unfamiliar with ramps let me enlighten you, because they are a whole world of awesome.
Ramps belong to the onion family, and go by the alternate names of ramson, spring onion, wild leek, wood leek, and wild garlic. They’re native to North America where they grow from South Carolina all the way up to Quebec. They are particularly popular in the cuisines of the rural upland South and Quebec, and have been gaining in popularity amongst upscale restaurants throughout North America. Throughout Appalachia they are considered particularly special, and many festivals are often held each spring either in their honor or with ramps as a culinary focus.
Ramps are characterized by smooth, flat, broad green leaves and stems that are somewhere between red and purple. Their stock/bulb is very similar to that of a scallion. Taste wise their flavor falls somewhere between that of garlic and onions with their leaves having a milder flavor then their bulbs.
Now that you know what they are, let me tell you about how I happened to come across them.
Until I purchased the cook book “Clean Start” I didn't even know what a Ramp was, but once I knew it didn’t matter because I couldn’t find them for sale anywhere. As a lover of all things garlic and onion the one recipe that calls for ramps in “Clean Start” had caught my eye and piqued my interest, but as badly as I wanted to try it, I could not. Ramps you see have a very short season, and are usually available for only a short time between end of March and Early May. Not being able to find them, I forgot about them entirely, until ast weekend.
I was doing my grocery shopping, and I was in the mood for Garlic Scapes. Another delicious spring vegetable only available for a short time in spring. I asked my friend SC who works in the produce section of my local grocery if he had any scapes in or if it was still too early for them. He said that they’d just gotten scapes in the day before. Excited I followed behind him as he directed me to a produce shelf. However once we got there I saw immediately that they were not scapes but ramps. “Aren’t they the same thing?” he asked, and I informed them that they were not. I was all set to leave disheartened by not having found any scapes when I suddenly remembered that recipe from “Clean Start” and how rare it is to find ramps. Finding them right then, on that particular day seemed like a miracle and so I bought two bunches to bring home.
Yesterday was my first chance to try them out, and of course I decided to use Terry Walters recipe for Cannellini Beans with Sun-dried tomatoes and ramps. Generally speaking I’m not a fan of Cannellini beans, not canned at least but that’s all I had, and I figured why not at least try it? I am so, so glad I did. I made this dish for lunch and it was the most amazing, mind-blowing thing. The flavor of the ramps was incredible, kind of like a strong chive mixed with a bit of garlic, and it paired beautifully with the sun-dried tomatoes and the creaminess of the beans.
Honestly, I couldn’t stop Mm-Mmming the entire way through the meal and I don’t typically do that. I fell instantly in love with the dish and the ramps and have made the decision that buy oodles and oodles of ramps when I go grocery shopping today. I can not wait to find out what other delicious configurations I can come up with for these delicate wild onions.
Please do yourself a favor, next time you’re out look for ramps, and if you find them buy them! You won’t be sorry, really!