Photo: ramps growing on a sloped hill; ramsons bunch
Ramps are in peak season, and they won’t be around much longer. The “wild leeks” or “wild garlic” arrive in early spring, to the delight of foodies in New York City. Fancy restaurants serve dishes featuring this culinary gem, and the finicky allium can be found at farmer’s markets for $5 a bunch.
According to Grub Street, the ramps are now available at the Greenmarket in Union Square, naming them a “quiet thrill of hope” after the dreadful year brought on by the pandemic.
For the more adventurous New Yorker, ramps can be foraged in the wild. If you spend your weekends in the Catskill mountains, like Joni Blackburn, now is the perfect time to go looking for ramps.
Green plants are still scarce there this time of year, so patches of this spring ephemeral are easy to spot among the deep leaf litter and fallen logs of the woodland floor.
Ramps are similar to other alliums - garlic, onion, leeks, chives, shallots - but they have a distinct flavor that sets them apart. They also look very similar to their European counterpart, ramsons (pictured above on the right).
The ramps’ broad, lily-like leaves are edible, and they pair well with eggs. You can also use them as a pizza topping.
As of today, Local Roots has ramps for sale on their website. Currently showing 14 items available, sold in two bunches for $12 each.
Screenshot from Local Roots NYC
The City Cook also has some great suggestions for how to prepare and eat ramps, including pesto. You can eat them raw or sauteed. Think of them as a scallion but sweeter.
Oceana, the upscale seafood restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, is advertising “pickled ramps” and “ramp oil” with their fluke crudo on their dinner menu.
If you decide to try your hand at foraging, keep in mind that the wild ramps are rare for a reason. They’re not easy to grow, as they require very moist soil and a sloping hill. This is probably why these alliums haven’t been commercialized.
To do your part in protecting these wild plants, be mindful about how you forage. Ken Mudge, a retired associate professor in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell, recommends cutting the ramps in half and replanting part of the foraged plant.
Whether you find them at the market or at a fancy restaurant or on a sloping hill, ramps only show up for a short time each spring. Enjoy them while you can.