Cooking With Ramps (And What’s a Ramp, Anyway?)

May 11, 2012 | By | Comments (13)

California has Meyer lemons and avocados; Florida boasts navel oranges; Georgia is famous for Vidalia onions. But here in the Northeast, we can lay claim to that much-anticipated wild spring green, the ramp.

What’s a ramp, you ask? Ramps are wild leeks and taste like a cross between an onion and garlic. They’re highly prized among foodies (though I hate using that word) and chefs love to add them to their menus when they’re in season. They’re only available for a few weeks in the spring, so cooks like to take advantage of them while they can.

I’m pretty straightforward when it comes to ramps; I usually chop them, then add to scrambled eggs. Sometimes I’ll chop the white part, leave the greens intact, and sauté everything in some olive oil for a quick and easy side dish. So it was a treat to check out the second annual Ramp Fest in Hudson, NY, last weekend and taste some pretty elaborate (and delicious) dishes prepared by local area and NYC restaurant chefs.

Chicken Ramp Meatballs

Chicken ramp meatballs from Swoon Kitchenbar

My favorite dish (though to be honest, I didn’t get to try everything) was probably the Carolina Rice Custard With Ramps by Hundred Acres, beautifully presented in eggshells. It was creamy and savory, with layers of texture and flavor; the oniony ramps cut through the richness of the custard and it was a really creative dish. I also loved the Chicken Ramp Meatballs—the ramps were chopped up and mixed in with the meat—served with Grilled Ramp Leaves and Romesco Sauce, provided by Swoon Kitchenbar. There was pizza topped with ramps, fried oysters with pickled ramp remoulade, and even a ramp and lime sorbet (yes, it was tasty; more lime than ramp, but that’s probably how it should be). NYC’s Fatty ‘Cue was serving up shots of whiskey followed by briny ramp pickleback chasers to go with their roasted lamb, ramp, barley, and sheep’s milk yogurt dish.

Egg custard with ramps

Carolina Rice Custard With Ramps from Hundred Acres

All in all, it was a great way to get inspired and celebrate the season. I can’t wait to pick up some ramps from the farmers’ market and experiment at home.

Ramp and lime sorbet

Anyone else out there love ramps? How do you use them?

Ramp pickleback

Ramp pickleback (a whiskey chaser) from Fatty ‘Cue