Ramping it up

by guest blogger Rich Baringer,

It’s the time of the year for things to start ramping up from the Deep South to Canada. We’re right in the middle of the brief time that ramps, or wild leeks, are available in forests all along the East Coast.

Ramps grow in bunches in the wild. They look much like scallions except that they have flat, green leaves that sometimes turn a deep purple or burgundy closer to the bulb. Like a scallion, both the bulb and the leaves are edible.

Ramps have been popular throughout the East Coast as long as people have been picking them. Many people think that these potent wild veggies taste like a strong onion and smell like strong garlic. (The leaves are milder tasting than the bulbs.)

They’re great in soups, salads, casseroles–pretty much any application that calls for scallions or leeks. Just clean them, trim the roots off of the bulb and they’re ready to use. They are only available a short time, but they can be frozen to be used at a later time.

These wild leeks are so popular in certain parts of the country that ramp festivals are in full swing this time of year. Here’s an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette telling about the Mason-Dixon Ramp Festival in Western PA that was held this past weekend. And here’s a website with great ramp recipes.

So the next time you’re out in the woods, look to the ground. You might just find your dinner!

Follow Chef Rich Baringer on his blog, Dinner’s Done, or sign up for his great email newsletter.

UPDATE: Local ramp enthusiast, Betsy Wertz, has this to say about ramps in Bucks County:

They are to be found in Bucks County but not as plentiful as they are in some places I’ve heard about, like West Virginia, and Germany. They often grow near a river, in open woods, and often can be found where trout lilies and bloodroot grow. I have also seen them along cut bank roadsides where it is shady. They look for all the world like lilies of the valley. The leaves disappear when the flower stalk emerges.

When I take them, I remove one or two from a clump and leave the rest be. My favorite way to eat them is the whole thing raw, with salt, on good bread and butter. Second is lightly sauteed in olive oil, then again with the bread and butter.

They do make your breath smell like something unmentionable, but unless you are trying to make a great first impression on someone, it is totally worth it.”

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  1. I’m always on the lookout for ramps and have never seen them in Bucks County. They seem to grow more along the Appalachian Trail areas. Have foraged some in Sussex County in NJ but none around here. I’m a cyclist, so am always looking on the road side but can’t find any. If anyone knows of a good ramp area around here, point me to it!

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