Ramps, also called wild leeks, are one of the most well known spring ephemerals. They are in the same family as onions, garlic, and leeks and have a taste reminiscent of all of them. Ramps are perennial and grow from an underground bulb, which is a white teardrop shape 1.5 inches long by .5 inches wide. The aboveground portion consists of 2-3 basal leaves that are lanceolate in shape. These smooth, thin leaves grow up to 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. Each leaf has a center fold and can also have more vertical ridges.
In late spring the leaves begin to wither as the plant focuses its energy on producing a flower. An umbel of white flowers with three petals grows on a tall 8-20 inch stalk. Each flower then forms a black seed.
Ramps grow in hardwood forests and along rivers. They almost always inhabit the same ecosystems as sugar maples, and others usually include beech, yellow birch, and elm. They are often found with other spring ephemerals such as spring beauty, toothwort, and trout lily. Ramps appear in very dense clusters because they reproduce vegetatively. However, although they appear so abundant, these colonies have usually taken more than ten years to grow and so you must be careful not to overharvest. It is best to remove small patches from different areas instead of the majority in one part.
Nutrition and Medicinal Qualities
Harvesting and Preparation
The leaves and bulbs are both edible. The best time to harvest leaves, for taste and efficiency, is in the middle of spring when they are large, but not fully grown. Once flowers begin to appear the leaves lose their taste. The bulbs can be eaten during any season. The entire plant can be eaten raw or sautéed, substituting for onion in any recipe.
Ramp Pesto (found here: http://www.thetarttart.com/2013/05/ramps-pesto/)
1 bunch of ramps (about 10 stalks)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil (I used about 1/2 cup)
Salt & pepper
Squirt of lemon
Wash the ramps and cut the hairy ends off the bulbs. Roughly chop the leaves and remainder of the bulbs. Also roughly chop the walnuts, then place both the ramps and walnuts in a food processor. Pour in the cheese and start processing, slowly pouring in olive oil until you’ve reached a consistency you like. Taste for salt and pepper, and squirt in some lemon juice to taste.
Makes ~ 1/2 cup.
Ramp Risotto (from The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups ramp leaves, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 2/3 cups water
2 cups Tofu Cottage Cheese
1 cup long-grain brown rice
1 cup brown basmati rice
3/4 cup black walnuts, pine nuts, or walnuts
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon chili paste or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the ramps and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
3. Mix the ramps and garlic with the remaining ingredients in a 3-quart oiled casserole dish and bake, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
Baked Ramps (from The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook)
1 1/3 cups ramp bulbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili paste or 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, finely crumbled
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the ramps in a 1 1/2 quart oiled casserole dish.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour half the sauce over the ramps and bake them, covered, for 1 hour, bastin gthem every 20 minutes with the remainder of the sauce.
Ramp Vichyssoisse (from The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook)
6 medium-sized potatoes, sliced
2 quarts vegetable stock or broth
4 cups ramp leaves, sliced
3 cups drained silken tofu
4 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped scallions or fresh chives
1. In a large saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the potatoes in the stock for 10 minutes.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, except the scallions, and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender, about another 10 minutes.
3. Transfer the mixture in batches to a blender and process until smooth. Start on low speed and hold down the blender cover with a towel to prevent eruptions.
4. Garnish the soup with the scallions and serve hot or cold.
Serves 6 to 8.