Where Are The Ramps?

Recently I posted about my misadventures during “Morel Season.” About how coveted Morel mushrooms are in our neck of the woods; about how people suffer through the freezing rain to venture into the woods in search of these culinary gems. And about how, after years and years of hunting for them myself, I’ve never found a single one! Sad, I know. But there’s some good news in this, too.

Several years ago, when I was still quite new to the Morel madness, I headed out into the woods behind MorningStar, hoping against all hope to find my own stash of the mushrooms. As I stood surveying the woods, I smelled something that reminded me of garlic. Being new to all of this, I had no idea what I had discovered. So I headed back to the farm to get Roger, one of our farm hands, who is himself a “man of the woods.”

I took Roger to the spot where I had been standing and asked him if he could smell the same thing I did. He burst into almost uncontrollable laughter, and finally told me that we were standing in a patch of ramps. “Oh, okay, Roger,” I said, trying to sound wise. “So what’s a ramp?” When he finally got control of himself, he explained to me that ramps are wild leeks. They’re bright and fresh, with a flavor that lies somewhere between fresh garlic and scallions.

Well I was not about to miss out on all the possibilities that Roger had just opened up to me. So he and I spent the next couple of days harvesting ramps from the woods around us. Culinarily speaking, life changed for me during those couple of days!

I brought the ramps – a bushel at a time – into our Test Kitchen, and began to work furiously to process them.

I made Ramp and Pea Pesto from the leaves; I roasted and pickled ramps; I froze the bulbs I hadn’t used; I used some in tarts that I made for friends; and at the end of the adventure, I dehydrated what was left over and stored it for use later in soups, and sauces.

Sometimes it saddens me to think about how short the growing season is in our area. I spend the cold wintry months reading culinary magazines, culling through recipes online, and dreaming about the months to come when I can create all those farm-fresh recipes I’ve been reading about. But then I remember that it won’t be long before Ramp (and Morel) season, when Roger and I head back into the woods and merge with more bushels of fresh wild leeks than we’ll know what to do with. For us, they are our first blush of spring. We’ve got something that all those warmer climates don’t have. And before you know it, while all those culinary magazines are writing about ramps, we’ll be enjoying them fresh from our woods!

For our recipe for Ramp and Pea Pesto, visit us online at: www.morningstarkitchen.com/ramp-and-pea-pesto

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