What to Do with Ramps

Main Dishes
Spaghetti with Ramps
Ramp Pesto Pasta
Ramps ’n Taters
Ramp Casserole
Grilled Ramp Soup

Pickled Ramps I
Pickled Ramps II
Pickled Ramps III

This native North American plant, a wild member of the leek and onion family, has long been celebrated as a harbinger of spring in the southern Appalachian region. Not long ago, they were so little known elsewhere that chefs had to call them “wild leeks” to get their customers to try them, as Seattle chef Matt Costello explained in an interview in 1999. In more recent years, they have become a big, mid-spring hit in trendy farmers markets and restaurants – under their own name.


Ramps purchased at the Union Square Greenmarket, New York City, May 12, 2007

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) have an onion-garlicky flavor, though they are considerably milder than either of those relatives. However, if you eat enough of them, and particularly if you munch them raw, you may have a whiff of ramp on your breath and exuding from your skin for the next several days. Don’t let that keep you away from this addictive seasonal treat.

You can chop up and toss ramps – bulb, stem and leaves – for flavoring in any dish that calls for garlic or scallions. Or you can use them as the key ingredient in a recipe, as in the following selection.

The Ramps ‘n’ Taters and Ramp Casserole recipes are traditional Appalachian Mountain-style dishes, with plenty of pork fat, some of which a health-conscious chef might want to drain off. The Spaghetti with Ramps recipe is a simple springtime dish served in fancy restaurants, such as Mario Batali’s New York City restaurant, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca. Being a pesto aficionado, I elaborated on that recipe to create a Ramp and Carmelized Shallot Pesto.

If you are using just the bulbs, be sure to save the stems and leaves for other uses. You can freeze them in a zip-lock bag and use them later, as a reminder of spring. For instance, you could toss some ramp leaves into a basil pesto later in the summer, or use as a flavoring in just about any recipe that calls for some minced garlic or onion.

Spaghetti with Ramps [top]

1/2 lb ramps
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest or lemon juice
Red chili flakes (optional)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb spaghetti
4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
Toasted bread crumbs

1. Trim roots from ramps and slip off outer skin on bulbs, if loose. Blanch ramps in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, 5 to 10 seconds, lift out of boiling water and transfer to cutting board. Coarsely chop ramps and put in a blender with zest and oil.

2. Add spaghetti to boiling water and cook a few minutes, then ladle out 1/2 cup pasta water and add to blender. Purée ramps until smooth and season with salt. Continue to cook spaghetti until al dente, then ladle out about 1 cup additional pasta water before draining spaghetti in a colander. Return pasta to pot with ramp purée and toss with parmesan over moderate heat for several minutes, thinning sauce with a little pasta water as needed to coat pasta.

3. Transfer to serving plate a top with bread crumbs.

Source: Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Ramp and Carmelized Shallot Pesto Pasta [top]

20-25 ramps
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 shallots
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 lb spaghetti or pasta of your choice
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Trim roots from ramps and slip off outer skin on bulbs, if loose. Blanch ramps in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, 5 to 10 seconds, lift out of boiling water and transfer to cutting board. Coarsely chop ramps and put in a blender with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

2. Add pasta to boiling water and cook a few minutes, then ladle out 1/2 cup pasta water to add to blender when you process the pesto. Continue cooking pasta until al dente.

3. Meanwhile, chop shallots and saute in olive oil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shallots turn golden. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes before adding to the blender along with the pine nuts. Purée until smooth, adding 1/2 cup hot pasta water to thin.

4. Drain cooked pasta in colander and return pasta to pot. Add  pesto, stirring to coat evenly. Stir in parmesan cheese and transfer to serving dish.

Source: Mark Thompson

Ramps ’n’ Taters [top]

4 or 5 large potatoes, diced
1 pound bacon
1 1/2 pounds ramps, cleaned and cut up
6 eggs
Salt and pepper

1. Fry bacon in skillet, remove from pan and set aside. Fry diced potatoes in bacon grease for three to four minutes. Add cut up ramps and continue frying until potatoes are well done

2. Put fried bacon on top of potatoes and ramps. Let simmer about two minutes.

3. To add scrambled eggs, add after potatoes are done, before adding bacon.

Source: Yancey County, NC  Web site

Ramp Casserole [top]

1 pound pork sausage
4 eggs
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
15 ramps
10 potatoes, sliced

1. In a skillet, fry sausage, stirring as it fries. Beat eggs, add milk and set aside

2. In large baking dish, layer potatoes, sausage and chopped ramps. Pour egg and milk mixture over layers. Top with grated cheese.

3. Bake at 350 degrees until potatoes are tender

Source: Yancey County, NC  Web site

Grilled Ramp Soup [top]

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 quarts chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
Emeril’s Original Essence
4 bunches fresh ramps, trimmed and large leaves removed

For Garnish:

4 grilled ramps
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Crust bread

1. Combine the vegetable oil and the flour in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, to make a blond roux, 5 to 6 minutes. Whisk in the stock and the cream. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low.

2. Lightly grill 6 of the ramps. Cut the remaining ramps into 1-inch pieces. Add the chopped ramps to the soup, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and using a hand-held blender, puree the soup until smooth.

3. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, garnish with the grilled ramps and the parsley. Serve with crusty bread.

Source: Essence of Emeril

Pickled Ramps  I [top]

3 bunches of ramps, white parts only
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup bottled water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon coriander seed, mustard seed, black peppercorns, fennel seed
1 dried hot chile pepper

1. Cut off and clean white bulbs, saving stems and leaves for others use.

2.  Prepare brine bringing vinegar, water, sugar and wine to a boil for 1 minute. Add dried spices and remove from the heat after 1 minute

4. Blanch ramp bottoms in heavily salted water for 1-2 minutes, for about 15 seconds until the remaining greens on the ramp bottoms turn very bright green. Drain and cool quickly in ice water.

5. Pour brine over ramps and let sit for 3 to 5 days in refrigerator, for those that will be used within a few weeks. To preserve some for later use, seal the jars and  process them in a boiling water bath.

Source: Adapted from Gothamist

Pickled Ramps II [top]

2 quarts ramps, cleaned and peeled, green leaf removed
½ cup kosher salt
2 cup sugar
½ teaspoon whole celery seed
¼ teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon whole mustard seed
1 quart apple cider vinegar

1. Cover ramps with cold water and add ¼ cup salt. Let ramps sit in salt water over night.

2. Drain off water and rinse. Combine vinegar, spices, remaining ¼ cup of salt and sugar in a non-reactive container such as a stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil, add ramps, bring back to the boil, and reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

3. Cool mixture completely and transfer to a glass container. Keep refrigerated. Pickled ramps are wonderful on sandwiches, or served with pork barbeque.

Source: Distinguished Inns of North America

Pickled Ramps III [top]

1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon alum

1. Clean ramps, keeping bulbs only. Pack tightly in jars.

2. Add 1/4 teaspoon alum to each pint.

3. Bring liquid mixture to boil, pour over ramps.

4. Continue making liquid, enough to cover all ramps to be pickled.

5. Process sealed jars in boiling water bath for 5 minutes to seal lids.

Source: Mountain Breeze