Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ramp Season (with a recipe)

It's that time of year again.  Ramps are rampant in the woods (sorry).  For those of you that don't know what
Flickr:Jessica and Lon Binder
a ramp is, the pictures here will help you identify them.  They are the wild relative of the cultivated leek that springs up in the Northeast towards the end of April.  Usually growing in moist woods.  If you know of a place where there is a lot of skunk cabbage, chances are that there are ramps nearby (usually a short distance in the opposite direction of the wet area that the skunk cabbage is near).  Pull the whole plant out by digging underneath it a bit, and you'll have something that resembles a lily of the valley on top, and a scallion on the bottom.  It should have a nice, pronounced garlicky-onion odor.  Drop these in a bag as you harvest, and try not to take too many from one area.  I usually bring a cooler to put them in once I get back to the car to keep them fresh until I can prepare them.
Ramps in the woods. Flickr:Bev Currie

To prepare, cut off the small roots along with the bottom eighth-inch or so of the bulb.  Strip the outer layer or two of the translucent skin off and throw in a colander.  Wash thoroughly in cold water.  Then, chop the ramps into small pieces, tops and all, and re-wash in the colander in cold water.  You are now ready to prepare.

You can use them as you would leeks, with obvious consideration to the size difference, and the addition of an almost greens-like vegetable with the tops intact.  One popular use is in omelets.  I use them in place of the leeks in my leek latkes:

-A bunch of ramps, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces at the top, and smaller near the bulb.
-Almond meal (this makes them a bit healthier.  You can use bread crumbs instead.)
-Salt and Pepper
-Olive oil
-Frying oil

I use Trader Joe's almond meal.  Best for the dollar I think, and I usually saute the leeks in extra virgin olive oil, and fry the pancakes in regular olive oil, canola, or Trader Joe's rice bran oil.

Saute the prepared ramps in some olive oil until limp and fragrant, set aside to cool a bit, and wash the pan out for the next step.  Once they are just warm still, add a few eggs.  I had about 8 cups of chopped ramps to start with and used 3 jumbo eggs, so use your best judgement here.  You can always add more, so start low.  Mix well till the eggs are beaten, and add enough almond meal to make a thin pancake-consistency batter.  I think I ended up using about a cup this last time.  Add salt and pepper, and mix well.  Drop batter from a large serving spoon or ladle into hot oil (see above) and cook until golden brown on both sides.

These are fantastic as is, or with some sour cream, and/or applesauce.

I think next I'm going to try them in this recipe.

Happy foraging folks!

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