Passing through the Farmers Market a couple Saturday’s ago; I noticed that the mushroom guy had fiddlehead fern and ramps. I’ve bought his fiddleheads before, and know what to do with those, but had never laid eyes on a ramp, although I had seen ramps in various recipes. The ramps cost nearly twenty bucks a pound (!) so I took about 8. They looked really freshâ€”they had mud on them, wonder what that weighedâ€”and the guy carefully wrapped them in white paper for their journey to my pot.
When I got home, I did a little ramp research.
Tom Colicchio, in his fabulous book, Think Like a Chef, has ramps, asparagus and morels as the lead to his trilogies section, in which he does riffs on three prime ingredients. Here’s what Tom says:
“Ramps are wild leeks, harvested only in the spring, and I prefer them for the reason I prefer wild varieties of almost everything: They taste like the cultivated variety, only more so. If you can’t find ramps, you can substitute scallions or thin strips of leeks for the recipes in this section.”
Strangely (?), Alice Waters doesn’t list ramps in her fabulous book, Chez Panisse Vegetables.
Here’s a definition from the Weird Food website:
Ramps (USA South) A very strongly flavored member of the onion family. The first fresh green vegetable to appear after the winter in Appalachia, it is gathered and ceremonially eaten. This can leave such a powerful flavor on the breath that kids do it in order to be sent home from school. Wonderful ramp stories are told in the American folklore collection called “Pissing in the Snow, “ edited by Vance Randolph.
I finally got around to using the ramps today. I found them kind of like scallions, but with a more bulbous root and broad, flat leaves. Although described as Wild Leeks, they’re much stronger than leeks. When I chopped them, they gave off this wonderful leek/garlic aroma, not as sharp as onion, not as strong as garlic, but the best of each.
I cooked Ramps and Potato Soup for lunch. I had a NY Times recipe to go by, but it started with 4 cups of Ramps! I had a scant cup. The other ingredients are bacon fat, potatoes, cream and chicken broth. How bad can that be? Duh.
Ramps and Potato Soup
Adapted from a NY Times recipe of April 26, 2006
I apportioned my ingredients like this:
About a tablespoon of bacon fat (from making the Quiche on Sunday)
1 cup trimmed, chopped ramps, including greens
1 1/4 cups red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1â„2- to 3â„4-inch dice
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup crÃ¨me fraiche
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, render the bacon fat. Add ramps and potatoes and sauté over medium heat until ramps are tender, 4 or 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir to mix.
2. Stir in chicken broth. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in cream and heat until steaming; do not boil. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Yield: 1 serving and change, that is a rich, unctuous soup.
Y’all want ramp research? Check with your bro-in-law Gary. Carol and I were in WV a couple of years ago during the Ramp Festival. Good eatin’ and (Gary and I thought) great taste! Carol and Amy weren’t quite as thrilled.
In WVa, they appear in the spring – around Easter – and, like spargel in Germany, you eat ’em all you can.