Spring is in full swing, Folks, and that means all sorts of little green things are starting to pop up from the ground. That may not mean much to most of us these days beyond a welcome arrival of warmer weather, but for our predecessors it often meant the first fresh greens in months. That’s right, everybody; if you lived before the global trade in fresh produce we currently enjoy, those weeds you take for granted might’ve been your first chance to stave off the scurvy after wintering on canned and dried rations.
Since greenhouses and refrigerated trucks came along, a lot of traditional greens have fallen off the radar. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time. Some of them are even delicacies.
I submit for your consideration Allium Tricoccum, AKA the ramp.
Ramps are a broad leafed wild onion that grows from Appalachia north into Canada. It likes to pop up in damp ground starting in April and sticking around into August (although, the time to harvest is only through about May). When you dig ramps from the ground, any damage to the bulb or leaves causes chemicals in the plant to mingle and create a truly pungent oniony smell. The aroma mellows fairly quickly, and despite this, I assure you they are delicious. Ramps have a delicate flavor that’s somewhere between onion and garlic but unique from either. (Just cook them first if you have anywhere social to be for the next several hours. They sent a kid home from school when I was younger because he ate raw ramps and smoked out an entire classroom).
I had the chance to dig and cook some ramps on a recent visit to my folks’ place.
The patch of ramps above was started from seed several years ago, and it comes back each spring from bulbs and seed. You can recognize the broad, flat green leaves that lead down to a deep bulb. You don’t pull ramps – you have to dig for them. If you’re not sure you found the right plant, the oniony garlic smell is all the confirmation you’ll need. If you find a patch, just take what you need from the edges and leave the rest to keep the patch thriving season-to-season.
Once you’ve got your ramps, you’ll need to trim off the roots and remove the papery-thin outer later that clings to the bulb. By this stage, the aroma has mellowed and the kitchen should smell pretty good.
Once your ramps are cleaned, you can cook them in a variety of ways from frying to steaming to mixing into other dishes. They can even be pickled. We had a couple options in mind…
Above is a jar of bacon drippings. Below is a cast iron skillet that probably pre-dates WWII at the youngest. Trust me, these are both good signs.
We decided to do a breakfast of ramps and fried potatoes with a side of ramps in scrambled eggs. When you sauté your ramps, it’s a good idea to throw the sliced bulbs in first as they’ll take longer to cook than the delicate leaves.
There you have it, Folks. Another breakfast in paradise. Believe it or not, we had six inches of snow the day after I harvested these. That didn’t stop me from going out an digging another batch, though. After all, nobody wants the scurvy.
Until Next Time!
PS – Don’t forget to check out my latest novel Hail of Brimstone. It’s available in all the formats from eBook and Audio to paperback and hardcover. Signed Copies are in my shop and it’s FREE to read on Kindle Unlimited.
PPS – I’ve got a few short stories in the works. They’re a variety of weird creature horror in the wild west. Should I hold them for a collection or release them on Amazon one at a time? Let me know through comments or on social media.