The Feisty Forager: Ramps
March Madness — Day 8
Perhaps Appalachia’s signature ingredient, ramps (Allium tricoccum), also known as ramsons, or wild leeks, have been touted as the holy grail of wild edibles. Akin to garlic in flavor and heat, they taste like the woods, intensely green and almost earthy.
While much controversy abounds about how to harvest sustainably, if you have your own patch and it has had a few years to get going, you can eat with abandon, as this bulb is truly rampant in its growing power. If it makes you feel better, or if the patch is just getting on its legs, you can cut partway down the bulb with a sharp kitchen knife, leaving the root intact.
I simply harvest selectively, leaving more than I take, and thinning them out much as you would a thick clump of daffodil bulbs that need to be divided every so often in order to keep them flowering.
Once you get them to your kitchen, you’ll want to run cold water over them, and remove the fleshy outer covering that encircles the bulb. If you have a lot of ramps a garden hose is the best tool to use, as the water pressure peels back this layer with no effort.
Eat the entire plant, both bulb and green, slicing finely and sautéing with eggs or potatoes, or all by themselves as a garnish to meats, soups, pasta, or salads. Pickle them and use them to garnish a bloody mary, or eat along with a mess of green beans or collard greens. Try ramp bread, ramp quiche, ramp pesto and ramped-up deviled eggs. The possibilities are endless.
This article is one of a month-long series of foraged treasures. For more recipes from the field and forest, check out Appalachian Appetite: Recipes from the Heart of America.