I first became enamored of ramps several years ago, before this website even turned into Chickens in the Road. I was still living in the Slanted Little House and dreaming about a farm of my own when my cousin brought me my first bag of ramps. Based on questions yesterday after I posted about the ramps Morgan’s boyfriend brought me, I realize there are a lot of people reading now who don’t know there is a wealth of info on this site already about ramps, so I thought I’d gather it all up in a post.
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 “ramp 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 is a bit over-rated, depending on your sensitivities. Ramps are akin to a particularly strong onion or garlic–and if you like onion and garlic, you’ll love this stinky April delight!
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 now, 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. For the intrepid among you, find your own ramps in the woods! 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. Since that time, I’ve also planted ramps here at Sassafras Farm.)
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 are a few ideas.
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, but 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. Saute 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