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Cooking with Wild Ramps

Apr
30

You know it’s springtime in Appalachia when they’re selling ramps on the side of the road! If you don’t know what ramps are, they’re wild leeks native to the Appalachian Mountain region. West Virginia is the ramps capitol of the world (a claim to fame!). People dig them up in the rich, dark woodland soil, sell them on the side of the road out of pickup trucks, and ramps festivals and ramps community dinners (or feeds!) abound. Ramps are one of those things I thought so weird when I first moved here–and I was almost afraid of them. Ramps have a notorious reputation for their strong smell, which I think is over-rated. Ramps are akin to a particularly strong onion or garlic–and if you like onion and garlic, you’ll love ramps! Every year my cousin, who is not a ramps lover himself, buys a mess of ramps off a roadside stand and brings them to me because he knows I love them and that I practically never go into town if I can help it, hermit that I am. I was thrilled, as usual, when he called to tell me he had my ramps! He left them for me on the old farmhouse porch. I arrived to pick up Princess from the bus, and there was Princess and Georgia, waiting for me, all atwitter, holding brown paper lunch sacks filled with my lovely, stinky April delight.

“Guess what this is!” they cried.

“Ramps!” I said. (They were slightly downcast at the spoiling of their surprise. Next year when my cousin calls to tell me he just bought me some ramps, I’ll pretend I don’t know when I get there.) Then I bounced around and told them how excited I was and they felt better.

All parts of wild ramps are edible, and while they’re most traditionally served fried in bacon fat with eggs and/or potatoes and served with pinto beans and cornbread, ramps can be used in most any dish similar to how you would use onion and garlic. If you live in the Appalachian region, you’ll have no trouble finding them for sale at roadside stands. Look for ramps starting around mid-April. In parts of the country where they’re not readily available from the wild, you can sometimes find them in farmers markets or specialty produce stores. You can even buy them online in season (though they’re a bit pricey that way as ramps have become something of a “gourmet” item thanks to chefs like Alton Brown spreading the ramp love on TV). For the intrepid among you, find your own ramps! Ramps have broad, smooth leaves with purple stems and small white bulbs just under the surface of the soil. Search dark, woody areas near hillsides and streams–often in the same places you might find morels. (See Finding and Growing Ramps.)

How to Prepare Ramps:





Wash the leaves and bulbs in cold water, rinsing well. Lay out to dry thoroughly. To use, cut off the rooty ends from the bulbs, then separate the white parts of the ramps from the leafy greens. Slice the white parts in sections depending on your recipe. The leafy greens can be left whole or chopped, also depending on how you plan to use them. Ramps can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for months or the refrigerator for a week or so if you don’t intend to use them immediately.

But of course you want to start using them immediately! How can you resist? Here’s how.

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How to Make Fried Ramps with Potatoes and Eggs:

6 slices peppered bacon, cooked and chopped, bacon fat reserved
1 cup ramps, white parts and leaves, chopped coarsely
2-3 medium size potatoes, peeled and slivered
5 large eggs
salt, pepper, and chives
shredded cheese (optional)





Cook bacon in a large frying pan, remove, drain, and chop; set aside. Using the same pan with the reserved bacon fat, fry ramps and potatoes over low heat, covered, till potatoes are tender. Crack eggs over the ramps/potatoes mixture and fry, covered, till eggs are done to your liking. Sprinkle on some shredded Cheddar or Swiss–or not, depending on your preference. Season with salt, pepper, and chives to taste. Remove each egg with its ramps/potato bed onto serving plates; top with chopped bacon. Pass the pinto beans and cornbread! (Serves 5–increase or decrease recipe according to your needs.)

Now for something a little less traditonal! This is soooo good.

How to Make Ramps and Tomato Bruschetta:

one loaf of Hot, Crusty French Bread
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup ramps, white parts and leaves, chopped finely
3-4 fresh tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cut french bread in one-inch slices and place on large baking sheet. Sautee ramps, white parts and leaves, in olive oil in a large frying pan on medium-high for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add tomatoes, basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Combine well; spoon mixture onto french bread slices and top with Parmesan. Broil for a few minutes, till cheese melts and edges of bread slices crisp. Serve as an appetizer, snack, or accompaniment to dinner.


And now for the quickest, easiest way to fix ramps, try this surprisingly flavorful quick dish–How to Make Sauteed Ramps and Bacon Salad:

6 slices peppered bacon, cooked, drained, crumbled, bacon fat reserved
1/3 cup ramps, white parts, chopped coarsely
2 cups ramps, leafy greens, chopped coarsely
2 tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon in a large frying pan, remove, drain, and crumble; set aside. Using the same pan with the reserved bacon fat, fry ramps over medium heat for about 5 minutes or till tender. Divide leafy greens onto salad plates and spoon hot ramps with bacon liquid immediately onto the leaves to wilt them slightly. Toss gently; add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste, and crumble bacon on top. Serves 4 as side salads or 2 as a meal with your favorite bread. (For a vegetarian alternative, omit bacon and use olive oil.)

If you’re a ramps lover, let me know your favorite way to fix ramps! And if you’ve never tried them, are you going to? Inquiring minds want to know!

Find all of these recipes at Farm Bell Recipes for the handy print pages and to save them to your recipe box:
How to Prepare Ramps
Fried Ramps with Potatoes and Eggs
Ramps and Tomato Bruschetta
Sauteed Ramps and Bacon Salad

See All My Recipes
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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on April 30, 2008  

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Comments

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  1. 4-30
    5:30
    am

    :hungry: Suzanne, I would love ramps, but here in Oklahoma, we have wild onions (probably the same thing), but they are so delish!!! I’m coming for breakfast. I can smell them already!!!

  2. 4-30
    7:12
    am

    Yes, I would love to try ramps! I live in rural Virginia in the Blue Ridge, I’m going to see if I can get some/find some here. Yum!

  3. 4-30
    7:25
    am

    I am back in Montana after spending the winter in North Florida – panhandle, not south Florida…more “deep South” than “Snowbird” or urban country. Anyway, I WOULD try ramps…I tried and liked several regional foods – beet greens were my favorite so think I would like ramp greens. The other delicacy was boiled peanuts – not sure if that is something they do in WV – the boiled peanuts were a “side of the road” thing also.

    Here, in Montana, the roadside fare is sweet cherries and late summer, huckleberries.

  4. 4-30
    7:29
    am

    Apparently we are all heading your way for breakfast and/or lunch! (And to see the chicks, of course, Nice brooder, by the way.)

    -Kim :wave:

  5. 4-30
    7:40
    am

    That looks FREAKIN awsome!!!! Youre makeing this chubby pregnant women drool all over. Now what am I gonna eat to compare to this!!! LOL Do you plan on haveing these in your garden next year?

  6. 4-30
    7:48
    am

    ohnoes!
    Ramps :sick:
    I never cared for them they were to strong for my taste, plus the lingering effect is kinda gross. But you do make them look good!
    Some creative uses for them smelly suckers heh.

  7. 4-30
    7:51
    am

    I have never tasted ramps. Wish I lived in the Appalachians so that I could try some!

  8. 4-30
    7:56
    am

    I have lived in West Virginia my whole life and I have never had a ramp and was not even sure what it was….thanks for clearing it up and now I won’t be so scared to give it a try. I should probably have a breath mint on hand for afterward. :hellokitty:

  9. 4-30
    7:59
    am

    LOL, Blaze. I know that’s how a lot of people feel about ramps. I use them, for the most part, sparingly in my recipes to take advantage of the flavor without making it overwhelming. I think traditionally they’re used mored heavily in recipes than what I do (and might explain why some people don’t like them).

  10. 4-30
    8:07
    am

    This time of year you never know when you’ll round a turn and find someone on the hill digging ramps or on their way with bucket and shovel in hand. We always knew where they were headed. Another sign of spring. :snoopy:

  11. 4-30
    8:22
    am

    We have been eating ramps ever since they started coming up..My husband knows a fantastic place to dig them..We like to eat them raw too..As for the smell it is only offensive if you don’t eat them too..So I made sure I gave neighbors on both sides of me a big mess.. :thumbsup: All kidding aside..I really don’t care I love ramps and I am going to eat them..Connie

  12. 4-30
    9:42
    am

    My husband loves ramps. There aren’t as many here as where you are-so if you find a patch you keep it top secret.
    I agree with you I think the “smell” part has been over rated.

  13. 4-30
    10:14
    am

    I’ve never even heard of the stinky suckers!

  14. 4-30
    10:55
    am

    Suzanna…my husband likes to pick ramps when we visit my mom in W.Va…he takes them and dehydrates them, puts them into a canning jar and uses them for soups and so on. I have to hold my nose when he opens that jar, that’s when they really reek. They are good in small anounts in some foods I think. Enjoy them! I want morel mushrooms myself…have you found any of those yet? My oldest sister has found a lot this spring, wish she could send me some.
    Enjoy your spring…Fern ( Micki ) from Ohio

  15. 4-30
    11:29
    am

    That’s nice and all, but I want more baby chick pics, please! :chicken: :chicken: :chicken:

  16. 4-30
    11:44
    am

    Noooo chicks… we’ll suffer chick withdrawal! But those dishes look yummy. No wild ramps in Texas that I know of, but I’m looking forward to local tomatoes, strawberries and peaches later this spring/summer. I’ve been hitting our suburban equivalent to a Farmer’s Market – Sprouts, and getting some nice fresh veggies. I’ll need to make the trek into Dallas to the big farmer’s market there soon.

  17. 4-30
    11:48
    am

    I ADORE morels. Do you ever find any?

    Haven’t had ramps yet, but when I was young we had a neighborhood club and the one rule was we each had to eat 4 wild onions (is that what they’re called?) a day. We were certainly a smelly bunch!

  18. 4-30
    12:55
    pm

    Love the ramps! My husband used to eat so many when they were in season that his body sweat would be a bit fragrant. I used to love the ramp festival in Elkins. People really got creative in the dishes. I still like them best fried with potatoes.

  19. 4-30
    1:49
    pm

    I just happened upon your blog … so very nice. I love your photography and your writing style. A very beautiful, scrumptious place indeed!

    Warmest wishes,
    firefly

  20. 4-30
    1:50
    pm

    Wow, I had no idea ramps were so popular outside of WV. I’m a native of WV, while I’ve never eaten ramps they are ingrained into my memories from childhood. Ramp dinners are held at so many schools in the spring, I can remember playing softball and smelling the ‘aroma’ from the school building.

    Thanks for the ramp love :snoopy:

  21. 4-30
    2:36
    pm

    Very interesting! I love Leeks, grilled onion, garlic..all that, so I am sure I would enjoy them..but here in LA, I do well to find Leeks. LOL But, if we are over that way again…YUM. I just LOVE it when you give the steps on how to prepare these dishes and most of all, when you include pictures, so I can see the finished product! Thank you!

  22. 4-30
    3:41
    pm

    Suzanne, the ramps sound delicious! :thumbsup:

  23. 4-30
    3:49
    pm

    Those look familiar. Hmmmm. The bruschetta and salad look yummy! Enjoy!

  24. 4-30
    3:50
    pm

    I live in Oregon and had never heard of Ramps until you mentioned them on your blog last year.

  25. 4-30
    4:11
    pm

    Hey Suzanne,

    I love Leeks and think you could substitute ramps in a leek and potato soup (yummy, creamy and divine) or another decadent treat(ramps instead of leek) might be a Brie and Ramp dip inside a sourdough bowl. You just melt up a hunk of brie without the rind and sautee the ramps sliced in butter and stir into the warm brie, pour into a sour dough bowl and dip crusty bread into it.

    I really could go on and on. *drooling*

    Julie

  26. 4-30
    4:29
    pm

    I wonder if my onion allergy would kick in with ramps? Either way, I love love love Alton Brown!!!

  27. 4-30
    4:44
    pm

    I feel deprived – you would think southwestern Pa would have them too but if they do, I’ve never heard of them. I love onions and in fact the only thing I’m growing in pots are green onions. I probably could subsitute but the leafy part would be a bit different.

  28. 4-30
    5:50
    pm

    You sure do make them look good. Given my successes with your other recipes, I might just have to give these a whirl!

  29. 4-30
    6:30
    pm

    I confess, I never even heard of ramps. But you make them look good. I think…

  30. 4-30
    7:43
    pm

    :cry: and that’s one of things I really miss about our spring trips back to WV!

  31. 4-30
    10:21
    pm

    Oh! I have never heard of these, but I MUST have them! Thank you so much for the info. As I love garlic, onions, leeks, etc. these sound fabulous. Now to figure out how to get them to grow in Middle Tennessee. . .

  32. 4-30
    10:35
    pm

    Excellent recipes, pictures and explanations of the ramps. I will just have to do the same with other things like leeks, mexican green onions and the like. Of course, anything that includes bacon and onions has my vote!
    Excellent new brooder! My chicks are 2.5 weeks old today and as of last night we had to put a screen on the top of their box/brooder. They are now flying to the top of the feeder and water fountain! The box is a good 3 feet tall, but we just want to ber certain!
    Enjoy all of your FIDS – (feathered and furry Kids)!

  33. 5-1
    12:56
    am

    Oh, my gosh! Those are beautiful. I love onions and garlic, so I’m definitely going to have to find some of those and cook something!

    Thanks for sharing, Suzanne.

  34. 5-1
    10:55
    am

    Can you believe I’ve lived in WV all my life and have never had ramps?

  35. 5-10
    4:28
    pm

    Why Bacon in everything? :treehugger:

  36. 9-30
    12:27
    pm

    I LOVE ramps! I was born and raised in WV and always loved it when my dad would go out and get some ramps. I have been living in Michigan for the last 4 years and was surprised that no one knew what a ramp was. They all thought that I was crazy…LOL…My mom and me were walking through a park during spring when all the snow finally melted and found what seemed like millions of ramps all over the place. No one even touched them. We smelled like ramps for a month. Our favorite way to cook them is to clean them, lay them whole on a cookie sheet, drizzle some oil on them (not a lot, just enough so they won’t stick) and bake them until they are tender. I always put a little bit of vinegar over mine. I love them! Thanks for posting these recipes, I will be sure to try them when ramp season comes back around.

  37. 2-27
    4:47
    pm

    I live in North Ga and it’s just about ramp time here. Even having the mowers cutting the shoulders of the road leaves the area smelling like onion/garlic :yes: .

    Here we have both wild onions AND ramps. Just watch out for the chiggers while digging in the grass. For such tiny creatures they sure leave an itchy spot for WEEKS – at least on me.

    I should get off my rump and harvest some ramps and onions. As our economy continues to tank, free groceries will become a boon. And I’m blesses with both a freezer AND a dehydrator. :snoopy:

  38. 3-27
    10:20
    pm

    6 Med. potatoes
    2 small onions
    2 tsp. salt
    1/2tsp. pepper
    1 cup diced ham
    1/2 cup chopped ramps
    2 cups carnation evaporated milk
    1/2 cup crumbled slab bacon
    1-2 slices American cheese
    3tlb. flour
    milk to make thickening for soup
    1/4 cup butter
    Peel and dice potatoes and onions
    Cook potatoes-onions-ham-bacon-ramps-salt& pepper in 3cup water until potatoes are done. add 1/4 cup butter and let melt,then add milk and bring to boiling point but don’t boil.
    Mix flour & some milk for thickening and add to soup, cook until starts to boil , turn off heat . Lay American cheese slices on top of soup and stir until melted . Serve hope you enjoy .

    For six people we double this.

  39. 1-17
    8:52
    pm

    In hampton va where my family and I lived we’d have what I’m guessing are wild onions (they looked like the green onions you get at the store) sprouting all over our front and back yard every spring and summer , I always thought they were weeds until I managed to pull up a whole one and saw what it was.

  40. 4-13
    7:33
    am

    I am so glad you wrote this. Did you do it just for me? I have been so curious about ramps. I see the trucks selling them along side the road everywhere now. I wish you would have said how much they cost because I am going to stop and buy some now, and want to have the cash on hand. lol I can’t wait to try them! :snuggle:

  41. 4-22
    7:48
    am

    I was surprised to see ramps for sale at the farmer’s Market in Madison WI this coming weekend. They even included a recipe in the following newsletter. http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=ukt9slbab&v=001gKIdF6_QMym0qgZ-KANGeBvRVX0t9vwXSoZUsE7lrV9Jke8kDkod_qsnuC7TQ329tco0VBh0ZDxUvgYJBzy3YhJ4mGtvieCpfTUDO2rkLa1Nm-_rplpfAg%3D%3D

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