When I was growing up, I clearly remember the local Ramp Festival being a news segment every spring. I wasn’t particularly interested since everyone used words like “stinky”, “garlicky”, “putrid”, “intollerable” to describe this little oniony delectable. So earlier this spring, it started showing up on some of our favorite chef’s menus. Chef Brock at Husk, a proponent of traditional Southern ingredients has used it forever. But it was everywhere. Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, Charleston, Walland… you name it and some of the top chefs in the country were employing the lowly Ramp in savory dishes.
So our mission was laid out before us: GET RAMPS. COOK RAMPS.
Our local Farmers Market was too rainy for us to dig through on opening weekend, but last week we made it. We were almost through the market and pretty disappointed that we’d not found them, when there they were in all their glory! Ramps!!! $12/lb… wow. So we got a pound. Of ramps. To cook. Now. What?
First up for us. Like and good Southerner, was ramps in scrambled eggs. The key with these little guys is to cook them before you cook them. They are, as described, oniony and garlicky. The bulbs being much stronger in flavor than the leaves. We sliced up a couple, fried in some butter and in went the eggs. We were pretty surprised at the delicacy of the ramps once cooked. They were very mild. And yes, it was maybe the best scrambled egg we’ve ever had.
Thinking caps in full gear now, we started planning for dinner. Our goal was the highlight the ramps and not hide the star ingredient. M suggested Gnocchi with ramps. Bingo! While she was preparing the gnocchi from scratch, I decided to pickle some of these guys. Again, there are recipes that try to mask them, but I wanted to put them out front. Very simply here’s what I did:
We’re not sure how we will use these guys yet, but some suggestions might be to use the brine in an Appalachian Martini… with a little of Popcorn Sutton’s last batch of corn whiskey maybe? On a burger? On pork? Egg salad? Dressing? On Pizza? Blackberry Farm has some other suggestions. I can’t wait to try. But I have to. Give these little guys at least a couple weeks in the jar to mellow out.
So, back to the Gnocchi. We paired it with a salad we made that included the following from our garden: Broccoli sprouts, Carrot Tops, Baby Chard, and Okra Shoots. And these from Kroger’s garden: a ribbon or two of carrot and radishes. For the dressing, we kept it simple. some Lemon juice with a little tahini and olive oile from The Tree and Vine*. And a very simple grilled steak. Divine. M said she would have left off the carrot tops. They are tasty, but really need to be cooked like a green such as mustard or collards to cut the bitterness. Speaking of mustard greens. The Gnocchi was wonderful and the taste of the ramp greens reminded me a lot of mustard greens. Again, surprised at the delicacy.
NOTE: If you haven’t had a fine olive oil, do youself and get some. Keep it onhand for special occasions. It makes such a difference.
OK, we made it to day 3 of our ramp festival. I came home from work and Mandee had prepared a drop biscuit with Ramps. And an Asparagus, Ramp, and Potato soup. Ah-maze-ing. Having it for lunch today leftover.
So next spring (it’s probably too late for this year already), get out there and get some ramps. Google it… it’s worth a Google. And try them. We’ll let you know how the pickles turn out!
UPDATE: Looking for ramps online? Here’s a great source.