Foraging for Ramps
What’s better than food straight out of the ground?
While on our blogger retreat in Leland County, my friend Abby and I made it our mission to find wild ramps. We were in the correct region and in ‘ramp season’ (typically April through June).
After seeing a chef at one of the local wineries prepping them for an event, we were determined. A morning hike in the woods ended up being our ramp gold mine as we found hefty patches of them along the trail (makes sense as they grow in wooded, damp areas).
Our host Sarah is local to the area so she showed us how to locate them in the woods and the best ways to harvest them. Yanking from the leafy top will cause the bulb to stay in the ground and you want the whole enchilada for your cooking purposes and the health of the ramp. Gently coax them out of the ground by rocking them back and forth from the base to ensure you don’t end up ripping it in half.
Thought I would share what I did with mine along with some general info about these tasty veggies.
Ramps are wild leeks. They are like an onion that took a dip into a pool of garlic. They’re extremely flavorful and can be used for anything that you would use onions/scallions/garlic for. People do everything from pickle to grill them. Since harvesting them is fairly labor intensive (as in you have to go and find them in the woods in specific areas during a small window of time), they are popular and pricey.
GOT EM’…NOW WHAT?
Whether you forage or get some from a Farmer’s Market, give them a good bath when you get home. Even if you purchase from a farmer and they look clean, they can hold a lot of hidden dirt so you will want to make sure to clean them well. If you aren’t going to use them immediately, wrap them in a damp towel and place them in a bag in the fridge (keep the bag open to give them a little air vs. sealing it up).
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW?
Ramps are POTENT. If you are someone that has a sensitive nose specifically to onions or garlic this might not be the recipe for you. They permeated the entire kitchen/fridge when they were inside so once you buy them plan to use them and prep yourself for the strong smell.
Ramps fade quickly so make sure to have a purpose and plan in mind when you purchase them.
If you do find them in the wild, it’s important to take them in a sustainable way. The general rule is that you should only take about 5-10% of the patch to ensure the they can continue to develop. In general, be conservative and keep it moving…don’t pull from just one location.
One of the ways that I used them this year was making ramp butter. It was delicious! Check out my friend Abby’s post for some other yummy ideas of what you can do with them. Here’s the simple butter recipe:
1 stick Unsalted butter (softened)
Work butter in a small bowl until softened. Add the juice from 1 lemon and zest (optional). Add 1 TB of both freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. Add the star of the party and mix well.
For mine, I used about 4-5 full ramps (stems and bulb) finely diced. If you are going to freeze some, I would double everything and save half. Spoon onto parchment paper, mold into a log, and wrap tightly. This will allow you to keep the butter in the freezer for future use beyond ramp season! Simply cut pieces off as needed (think fresh veggies, grilled meat, potatoes, etc.)
Are you a ramps fan? What do you do with yours?