Grilled ramps: simple, spectacular, seasonal bounty
Ramps, sometimes called wild leek, is a wild onion native to North America. The bulb resembles that of a scallion but it has beautiful flat, broad leaves. It's considered a delicacy in the spring when it first appears, and adds a lovely garlic-onion flavor to savory dishes.
We're coming to the tail end of wild ramp season here in the Hudson Valley so we made one more push to harvest a few more yesterday and we couldn't have picked a nicer day for it.
Just a reminder to please harvest sustainably if you are fortunate enough to find a big enough patch to sustain some picking. You can only take a fraction of the plants without impacting their ability to thrive next year. If you're not sure how much is too much, my friend and fellow Woodstock Farm Festival-er, Rick is a big proponent of snipping just the greens instead of digging up the entire plant.
And don't forget that you can – and should – start your own patch by planting seeds and transplanting bulbs! We started this process last year by ordering ramp bulbs and seeds from Facemire's farm.
The bulbs we planted last year are up again this year and seem to be doing well though it will be a number of years before they've spread enough to harvest any of them. We'll just keep at it, though, and eventually should have a stellar patch of these singularly tasty spring onions.
If you want to start your own patch (do it!) keep in mind that ramps like sandy, loamy soil near streams or on hillsides in deciduous forest – I've heard that maple and oak trees are their favorites – where they can enjoy the early spring sunshine before the trees leaf out and benefit from the natural mulch of leaf litter in the fall. They do not like the acidic soil and limited sunlight of conifer (pine/evergreen) forest.
Now that my little lecture has been delivered, back to the grilled ramps.We made these last night to accompany some grilled salmon with mustard and thyme and we are hooked! Even our 4-year-old son who does not typically like onion-y, garlicky foods attacked them with great enthusiasm.
Very simple, too. Just toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill. Enjoy!
Serves 2-4 as a side
1 bunch (roughly 20) amps, cleaned with root ends cut off
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Clean and preheat your grill.
2. While you're waiting for the grill to heat up, toss the ramps with the olive oil, sea salt and pepper in a large bowl until well-coated.
3. Lower flame to medium and lay the ramps out in a single layer. Cook until grill marks form then turn to the other side – this should only take 1 to 2 minutes on each side.
4. Remove to a platter and serve.
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