In the spring, foodies and localvores become frantic over one little word:  RAMPS.  What is a ramp you might ask?  Ramps are an edible onion-like bulb that can only be found in the wild from Canada to Georgia.  They look like an exotic scallion with a pinkish purple stalk and beautiful flat green leaves.  What is really cool about ramps is that the whole plant is edible and it tastes like a cross between onion and garlic.  They have a very distinctive odor that is really hard to explain, even for a former fragrance industry professional like me.  After tasting and smelling these awesome veggies, I can tell you that I totally understand all the hype.  If you can get your hands on some of these you will understand exactly what I mean.

    Supposedly we have Martha Stewart to thank for bringing ramps into the limelight, and thereafter sending the population of ramps into decline (See Here).  I remember seeing an article in one of her magazines about ramps but I never though they would be something I could get.  I have never seen them in a grocery store, but some people on the internet have.  The major hurdle to finding ramps now is their popularity.  If someone before you gets to the store or farmers market and knows what they are, you can be sure they will most likely be buying all they can get their hands on.  So I knew my only option would be to go foraging and find some for myself.
    The first thing you need to do to find ramps is look near a stream or river.  There is a fairly large river that is close to where I live so I knew that is where I would start.  We walked along a paved path in a local park that is frequented by joggers and cyclists.  I started getting a little discouraged as we walked for a while with nothing in sight, but we soon came up to a flat clearing close to the water.  I took one step off the path to investigate and I looked down to my right and there they were.  Right there!!!  I found them!!! As the boys played near the river throwing in rocks and sticks I quickly dug up a few and placed them in my bag.  My husband gave me a few looks of bewilderment, either because he was surprised I found some, or because I was actually digging up wild plants with the intention to cook and eat them.  I felt like saying, "it's too late now, you married me!"  I may be crazy, but I like to think I'm at least a manageable type of crazy.

    The next step is to clean your ramps.  When you dig them up they have a slimy membrane that you have to remove to get to the white bulb.  It is almost exactly like cleaning the membranes of a scallion.  The only other thing to do is pop off the roots and rinse the leaves.  Once they are clean the task becomes figuring out how to cook and preserve them.  Fortunately thanks to Martha and a few other food bloggers there are plenty of recipes to try.  Below are a few of the ways I chose to preserve half of my ramp stash so I could slowly experiment with using them.
No, my hands are not that hairy.  My husband graciously offered to be a hand model since it is super difficult to take pictures of your hands while holding a camera ;)

Some of the best ways to preserve ramps:

Pickled Ramps

If you do a quick Google search for pickled ramps you will find more recipes then you know what to do with.  I read through a few of them and decided to go with this one from Local Kitchen.  

I did however use thyme instead of parsley and I added some whole mustard and whole caraway seeds.

Ramp Pesto

After making pickled ramps you have lots of leftover green tops.  There was no way I was going to throw them out so I made some pesto to freeze and use later.

Process the green tops in a food processor and slowly add some oil until a thick paste is formed.  Spoon into an ice cube tray or mini muffin tin and freeze.  Once they are set remove them from the tray and store in freezer bags.   

Ramp Compound Butter

I was most excited to make this, and I thought I was so smart and original for thinking to do this.  Turns out I'm not the first to make ramp compound butter, but I was right because most people say this is the best way to preserve your ramps.

It is really simple, just take 3-4 ramps and chop them up, leaves and all.  Mash 1 stick of softened butter on your counter top.  Mash the chopped ramps into the butter and reshape it into a log and store in wax paper.  Compound butter can keep in the freezer for up to a year.

Blanching and Freezing

I am not sure of the outcome to this method of keeping ramps.  I'll be sure to add an update once I find out if they can hold up to freezing in this fashion.  I have read a few places that say you can do it so I figured it would be worth a try.

Blanch the whole ramps in boiling water for 2-4 minutes so they become a brighter shade of green.  Then quickly transfer them to an ice water bath to cool down.  Pat them dry, place them in a plastic freezer bag and freeze flat.

Ramp Salt

It's like garlic salt, only better!  A great way to preserve the flavor of ramps in a condiment that you can sprinkle on top of any dish.

How to Make your own Ramp Salt

*Dehydrator needed
    The next task on my list is to create some recipes using ramps.  The best ways to use them is with other spring edibles and possibly eggs.  While I wait for some local asparagus to be ready to pick, I have a bunch of ramps stored in the refrigerator.  Keep them exactly like lettuce, with a paper towel in a plastic bag.  They will keep for 2-4 days in this fashion.  Make sure to seal the bag very well, or you risk having your whole refrigerator smelling like ramps.
 


Comments

04/23/2013 12:32pm

I'm all stressed out now... I haven't found any ramps yet this season!! What a stash you have! I'm the same with wild strawberries- if I see some while out walking, I shovel them into my bag. Such a find, right? I love all of the methods you chose in which to utilize these beauties! I'm excited to see what you're going to make. Feel free to invite us over (ha ha) :)

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04/23/2013 3:06pm

Once dinner plans are made I'll be sending out the invitations ;)

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04/23/2013 3:03pm

I'm with Emilie... I'm all stressed out too that I haven't found any ramps either! In fact, I've never even tasted a ramp, let alone cooked with it. I need to get on this immediately.

I love all the ideas you have for preserving ramps, especially the pickling idea and transforming it into that beautiful compound butter.

What a good hand model your husband is... I typically photograph when Asheley is at work, so I need to juggle the camera in one hand and the food in the other for those types of shots.

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04/23/2013 6:51pm

Hey Chris, no worries!!! This is my first year tasting ramps too. Keep an eye out at your grocery store or go for a nature walk at the nearest stream ;)

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04/23/2013 10:41pm

I'm so jelous...we have them around here too (S.Ontario), but their whereabouts seems to be a well kept secret. Thanks for the prep suggestions, I'll be sure to try pickling and making pesto with some market ramps :) Beautiful pics btw...maybe seeing how they look like in the wild will help me find some.

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04/23/2013 11:01pm

Hi Sofia, next time you are out in the woods definitely take a look around now that you know what they look like. The taste is amazing...hope you can find some!!! This was my first taste of ramps and when I found them I was doing a little happy dance :)

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04/23/2013 10:43pm

Sandra, your posts are always so thoughtful and well planned. Beautiful in their execution. My dog, as you now know ;-), has carefully and methodically destroyed all former signs of life in the tiny green space that we call our own (I live right in the heart of the city) - are ramps only a spring thing? We do have a cabin in the woods atop a quiet lake but we won't start going there until late May... any chance of finding ramps at that time?

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04/23/2013 11:07pm

Hey Kelly, ramps are a super early spring thing!!! You could look for them in May but they might be on their way to flowering or putting their reserves back into the ground (might have yellowing leaves). But it might be worth looking for them to see if you can find any...and you could always mark the spot for the next year. If you do find some just don't take more then 10% of each cluster because they are very slow growing and don't spread very fast.

A cabin in the woods sounds so wonderful. You are super lucky!!!

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05/10/2013 6:14pm

Love that you added the ramp salt ;-). Yes, the cabin is pretty darn wonderful -- a life long dream come true. Things get pretty quiet in the summertime at Inspired Edibles and I'm ok with that :).

Justina
04/29/2013 11:43pm

Great Pictures and on my next hike for Morels I think I will venture out and look for Ramps too. Can you just give me a hint Warren or Sussex? thanks so much

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04/29/2013 11:53pm

I was along the Raritan River in Somerset County. Get out there fast because the season is getting close to ending.

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Justina
05/11/2013 8:34pm

I went out today for Morel Mushrooms and ended up coming across a hillside covered in ramps, I cant wait to try your recipes

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05/12/2013 1:57pm

Awesome Find!!! I wish I could find some morels too but I'm never seen them before?

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Justina
05/16/2013 1:22pm

I found the ramps in the same area of the Morels, Growing on the edge of the woods under Tulip Poplar tree's in heavy leaf litter and also along trails that are open and sunny. I start hunting Morels the last week in April thru Mothers Day depending of course of the weather and rain fall. Im sure there in your area. If you go onto Morelmushroomhunting.com you can keep an eye out when NJ is finding Morels just go into report, search , then New Jersey.

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05/16/2013 2:04pm

I'm going to have to keep an eye out in the future. I would love to find some...I have even read in a few magazines that you can plant your own morels if you have a spot in your yard. Congrats on finding them both :) Now just don't share your spot with anyone!!!!

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Justina
04/22/2014 4:18pm

Hello again fellow ramp picker, It's that time of year again, I had to check back with you. I am going to start to harvest ramps next weekend and was wondering how did the ramps hold up in the freezer? your input is much appreciated. thanks again

04/22/2014 4:27pm

Hi Justina, I actually just harvested a bunch this last weekend. I found a great new spot. Check out some of the pictures on my new blog post. I have been meaning to put an update about freezing the ramps. They did work and I used them on top of a pizza. However the ramp taste seemed to be weaker then normal. My suggestion would be to freeze them in packages that you will use all at once. I used a big bag and the remaining ramps that I didn't use for the pizza got really soggy and gross. I think the best way is to really dry, pesto, pickle or make jam to keep ramps a little bit longer.

Happy foraging Justina. I'll be looking for morels soon too...you inspired me last year. Hope I can find some!!!

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Ryan
08/23/2013 5:09pm

This is fantastic! I'm going to have to add this to the list of plants I look for.

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04/27/2014 12:59am

Did your blanched and frozen ramps come out OK?

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05/06/2014 10:41pm

Hi Ava, the frozen ramps came out alright. I recommend only freezing an amount that you will use all at once. I froze a bunch and only used a few to top a pizza. The remaining frozen ramps did not look good the next day so I tossed them. I didn't freeze any this year and tried to just enjoy them fresh :)

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