A North American wild allium, ramps have an achingly brief, blink-or-you’ll miss-them season. Also known as wild leeks or wild onions, ramps flourish briefly in April and May. Foragers find them in wooded and undeveloped areas. You can find them at specialty produce markets, farmers markets and on restaurant menus.
Intensely onion-y/garlic-y, ramps are a taste of the wild that aligns with today’s root-to-stem, no-waste sensibilities.
“The whole plant is edible, including the flower,” says Traverse City-based Jill Grenchik, who along with her husband, Aaron, is a forager certified by the Institute of Sustainable Foragers.
Choose ramps with unwilted green leaves. Wash ramps thoroughly to remove sand and dirt. Check for ticks. Remove the scraggly ends from the bulb’s root and peel off the thin, tissue-y outer layer. No white bulb? No worries. Some foragers leave them in the ground to ensure a crop next year. (Ramp populations in some states have been decimated by over-foraging.)
“They’re so robust and delicious” says Fred Monroe of Monroe Organics. “We eat them as often as we can during the short time they’re available.” Monroe forages ramps from a large, wooded area he pays to access near his Alma-based farm.
Pickle. Use bulbs and stems. Piquant, pickled ramps perfectly complement many dishes.
Saute. Give the leaves a quick turn in the skillet as you would for spinach.
Sauteed diced stems are excellent in scrambled eggs and omelets.
Oven-roast. Lightly drizzle ramp stems with olive oil and roast until softened in order to concentrate flavor.
Pesto. Swap out basil for ramp leaves.
Dry. Dehydrate chopped stems and grind into a powder for a seasoning to use year-round.
Garnishes. “Ramp blossoms make an excellent garnish and or salad ingredient.” Grenchik says. “Or chiffonade the greens and sprinkle over pastas and vegetables.”