by Jamie Keating
With Spring just around the corner, the season for many winter vegetables is coming to an end. Chef Jamie Keating shares his recipes for one of his favorite in between season foods–RAMPS!
Nothing announces the end of winter, than the arrival of ramps, one of the many foods that most chefs fantasize and dream about, including myself.
Ramps (Allium trioccum) are a member of the lily family, which includes garlic, leeks, and onions. Built a little like scallions, ramps have elegant green leaves growing from a richly purple stalk that fades to a white bulb. Below the bulb, roots hang down like dendrites. Ramps are often called wild leeks or wild garlic, and if you taste them you will know why: They occupy a middle ground of flavor, with the sweetness of leeks and the bite of garlic.
Ramps are praised for their health benefits as a springtime tonic, primarily believed to cleanse the blood. Ramps are remarkably high in vitamins A and C, and also boast a significant about of iron, selenium, chromium, calcium and fiber.
Historically, ramps were regarded as a spring tonic in the Appalachians. They are widely celebrated by tens of thousands of ramp lovers who attend numerous ramp festivals every spring. Avoid the deadly lily-of-the-valley, which looks similar to ramps. While ramp leaves have a pungent garlic odor, lily-of-the-valley has no odor.
The season is only a couple more weeks long, but the ramps are still tasty. Check your local farmers’ market or Whole Foods for them. When selecting ramps, look for bright leaves with little to no wilting. The leaves should stand up if you hold the ramp by its bulb. The bulb end should be pure white, and it should either transition straight to green in the leaves, or transition from white to purple to green. Any orange or yellowish colors are a sign that it’s past its prime.
Once you get the ramps home, wash them under cold running water to remove the dirt from their bases. Wrap the ramps in a slightly moistened paper towel, and place them in a plastic bag with a few holes for circulation. The ramps will only last around 3 days, so don’t let them go to waste.