The Farmers Market in Union Square may still have these little beauties for a couple more weeks, but as far as I can see, Ramp Season is at its tail end. Ramps are wild spring onions, and sometimes are called wild leeks. They have small white bulbs, hairy roots, and resemble scallions to a certain degree. The stems shoot out into long green leaves, and these leaves possess the essence of garlic and onion at its freshest. The bulb and stem are stronger in flavor, and are best with a little saute. But the leaves can be chopped and sprinkled over salads, or used as an herb component in any savory dish.
The ramps in the photo above were the result of a “bottom of the barrel” sweep at Whole Foods by yours truly. I went in one day looking for them, and was about to leave, disappointed, sans ramps. I came across a bin of some loose lettuces, and next to it was an almost empty bin of dirty, scraggly rooted things. I was able to decipher that underneath the crust of dirt was the exact ingredient that I was searching for – the stragglers of the bunches that the fortunate shoppers before me had acquired. I took everything that was left in the bin (probably a little more than a bunch) and asked the produce guy if they had anymore. He simply responded with one word “Saturday.” Well, it was Thursday, and I needed my ramp pesto for dinner on Friday. The dirty, crusty stash was my only hope.
I washed the ramps THOROUGHLY and let the dry in paper towels. Soaked the ends in water, and they regenerated themselves to the vibrant green stems they were meant to be. I used a little bit in my spring vegetable soup that evening, a little in the wild rice dish that I made, and most of it in the ramp pesto (recipe below.) My daughter Maya loves to chop the tops of the ramps and fold them into her scrambled eggs. They are so versatile, so fresh, and so SPRING. Grab them while you can, at your local farmers market. Or perhaps forage them yourself like my brother in law Piyush suggested I do at the Great Swamp. 😉
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch ramps – root ends discarded, bottoms and stem chopped and placed in a bowl, and green leaves chopped and placed in a separate bowl
2/3 cup parmiggiano reggiano cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
Saute the ramp bulbs and stems in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Place in a food processor. Add the green ramp tops, the cheese, the nuts, and the herbs, and process until combined. With the machine running, add the rest of the olive oil in a stream and process until pureed. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. This can be made a day in advance. Bring to room temperature before serving, This pesto is wonderful on top of seared or grilled fish or combined with pasta.