Monday, May 5, 2014

Foraging for Ramps

by student blogger Emilio

Every since spring started to creep around the corner, I’ve been hearing whispers about ramps as if they were some mystical unicorn-like vegetable. I also received an email about the illegality of foraging for ramps on federal land, which only added to the mysteriousness.

Allium trioccum–commonly known as ramps, wild leek and wild garlic among other names–are an early spring vegetable that are prized for their flavor, which is described as having garlic and onion notes as well as being mildly sweet. The whole plant is edible both cooked and raw. Ramps grow along the eastern United States and Canada and are particularly popular in the cuisines of the of the rural uplands of the South as well as in Quebec but are rapidly growing in popularity outside those areas. Ramps are generally not cultivated but rather foraged and are one of the first plants to emerge in the spring.

A fraction of the ramps that are growing in that area

I was fortunate enough to be put in contact by Chef Brash (he is the man) with a fellow student here, Brad, who previously ran the Foraging Club. Having grown-up in this area, he has been foraging since he was 13 years old, so you could say he is pretty familiar with the activity. Yesterday, we drove out to one of his favorite places to forage ramps, about 45 minutes south of campus. Being right next to a spring-fed creek, plentiful would be an understatement when describing the amount of ramps. Brad mentioned that he along with his friends have been foraging for ramps there for years but have always been careful to not take too many, resulting in continuous supply over the years. We also looked for fiddlehead ferns but were about a week too late for those. We did however find a lot of mustard garlic, a green in the mustard family that has hints of garlic flavor and aroma.

Ramps, cream, olive oil, parmigiano-reggiano
That night, being that it was a little late, I just made a simple pasta with ramps, heavy cream, olive oil and parmigiano-reggiano. I minced the bulb and stems and treated them like garlic by simply browning them in olive oil. I then added some cream and cooked the greens down for a few minutes before tossing it all with the spaghetti and cheese. It was a simple but outrageously delicious meal. Next weekend I am planning on making baek-kimchi (white kimchi) with the ramps and maybe pickling some. I really have no idea yet!

Next up on the foraging agenda: morels.

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