Find it Local Friday: Ramps

A week ago, ramps were completely off my food radar; Now I can’t stop talking about them.  When it comes to the first green produce of the season, they should definitely not go unnoticed though. They are simple in appearance but full of complex onion and earthy garlic flavor. They are wild grown but have become popular on the menus at some very cosmopolitan places. They are plentiful at their peak season, but gone before summer’s heat arrives. How could I have been missing out on this?

Sources:
1. Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI about 175 miles from St. Paul, has been delivering ramps to many of the co-op partners locations in the Metro.  Their website lists some Whole Foods and Madison, WI co-op locations as well.  They are sold in bunches with roots on.

2. Check the farmers’ markets in the next few weekends. Vendors may have them on hand alongside their other spring greens. Ramps don’t steal the show but are often readily available in season.

3. If you’re even more ambitious, head out to a local wooded area and forage for your own. We have our first camping outing planned for the weekend; I’ll be on the look-out for them while hiking around Frontenac State Park. Here’s what to look for:

Ramps are a spring ephemeral of deciduous forests in eastern North America. They can be found in cool, shady areas with damp, rich soil high in organic matter. New leaves emerge from the perennial bulb in early spring, usually late March or early April, before the tree canopy develops. By late May, the ramp leaves begin to die back and a flower stalk emerges. Thus, the annual photosynthetic phase is limited to a few weeks between when the plants emerge and the tree canopy closes. (From Cultivating ramps: Wild leeks of Appalachia (2002) by J.M Davis and J. Greenfield)

What to do with them:
It’s worth noting that ramps should be used within a few days of harvesting as the leaves begin to wilt. I had no idea what to do with ramps, but found they can really be put in any dish that calls for a stronger onion flavor.  I’ve already made Fettuccine with Ramps and Mushrooms. Here’s some other options I’m hoping to tackle this season:

Ramp Compound Butter

Scrambled Eggs with Ramps, Morels, and Asparagus

Pickled Ramps

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