Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ramp Up for Spring

Ramps, or wild leeks, are starting to appear. This wild relative to the onion starts growing in Appalachia at the first signs of spring and starts working its way northward to Canada as the ground warms and things begin to thaw.

The name ramp derives from the zodiac sign Aries or the ram. The ram is known for its stubbornness and people who fall under the sign Aries, born in late March to early April are also said to be stubborn. Because the ramp is frost resistant and therefore stubborn to Mother Nature, early on it was called Ramson, son of the ram. The name later morphed into ramp.

They grow on the damp forest floor, so keep your eyes open while hiking. Both the leaves and the bulbs can be eaten, but they have an assertive, garlicky flavor so use them sparingly. The bulbs can used like garlic cloves or a shallot - sliced and sautéed as a base for soups and sauces. The leaves can be sliced and added to egg dishes, casseroles or stir fry.

A traditional way to eat at ramp festivals is to boil a bunch of ramps for 20 minutes in a large pot with a splash of cider vinegar. The ramps are then drained and quickly sautéed with bacon grease and served hot.

This month’s Bon Appétit has a recipe that just screams springtime. I imagine sitting on the back porch, eating this with some fresh fruit and lightly toasted English muffins.Enjoy!
Serves 2
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced trimmed ramp bulbs and slender stems plus 1 cup thinly sliced green tops (from about 4 large ramps)
4 medium asparagus spears, trimmed, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 ounce fresh morel mushrooms, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 1/2 cup)
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
Melt butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add ramp bulbs and stems to skillet; sauté 3 minutes.
Add green tops, asparagus, and mushrooms; sauté until ramps are soft and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 9 minutes.
Add eggs to skillet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir until eggs are very softly set, about 2 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide scrambled eggs between 2 plates and serve immediately.

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