I love ramps. About 6 years ago when we were at a morel festival in Illinois I tasted them for the first time. Just in case you have been living under a rock (or on one like Hawai’i Island where they are quite foreign) ramps are wild leeks. They have an incredible flavor, which is quite unique, sort of a garlic- onion taste. I started buying them every season from Earthy Delights, a great online resource for chefs. I also bought morels from them every spring. Unfortunately when I moved to Hawaii, that was no longer possible. And so, one of the first things I did when I got to New York was run to Union Square Green Market to see if they had any ramps. On my first trip I was sorely disappointed not to find any. However, on a subsequent trip it seemed like EVERYONE was selling them. With many seasonal items that is the case. So, since then twice I have made them in my favorite and most simple way. They are delicate, a little like green onions with a leafy top. The entire ramp is edible.
While there are many things you can do with them, my favorite way is to just put them in a zip lock bag with some olive oil, a bit of lemon and lots of rough ground black pepper. I let them sit in the bag 10 minutes or so, then just toss on the grill on medium to low heat. It only takes a few minutes for them to soften and caramelize.
Whole Foods Markets are selling them in most locations. They are generally only available in the spring, but they are being cultivated and farmed now, which means the season may be extended slightly. They actually grow from the midwest eastward and can be found growing in the wild as far south as South Carolina. According to The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, the word ramp comes from “rams,” or “ramson,” an Elizabethan dialect rendering of the wild garlic. The word is first mentioned in English print in 1530, but was used earlier by English immigrants of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
You can use ramps in many ways, with scrambled eggs, in scalloped potatoes, frittatas and in stir fries, but my favorite way is to just simply grill them. You can also freeze them for later use in recipes, but freezing them does change the texture a bit and not suggested for grilling, but chopped for use in other dishes.
Here is one of the dinners I made with the ramps; Duck breasts sauteed then finished off in the oven served with a reduction of pomegranate juice (syrup consistency) on a bed of wild baby arugula tossed with olive oil and lemon, Russian fingerling potatoes halved and blanched then sauteed in the remaining duck fat, grilled asparagus and ramps and grilled pineapple slices for dessert.