by The Culinistas
The story of the ramp is that of triumph. Like everything popular, ramps were first utilized by the underclass, in this case, slaves and the impoverished. And, just as Williamsburg has gone from working class, to artist, to hipster, to yups, the ramp now stands as the pinnacle of spring vegetable obsession. Ramps are a perennial plant akin to scallions. Their flavor packs a punch, with a stronger taste than leeks and a scent more pungent than garlic. Fresh ramps are high in Vitamins A and C, have cholesterol-reducing compounds, and have small amounts of fiber, potassium, iron, sulfur compounds, and flavonoids that work to clean the blood and regulate the body.
A little ramp history lesson: It wasn’t until 1982 that the ramp was introduced into the New York food scene by an enterprising farmer from Upstate. From the 1980s on, ramp features by food writers like Ruth Reichl began popping up in the New York Times, Gourmet Magazine, Time Inc., and the New Yorker. Ramps became a staple at greenmarkets across NYC and in top restaurants, like Gramercy Tavern.
Ramps are only available from mid-April to early June, so be sure to get your hands on them while they’re available. If you want to preserve ramps for longer than their week long shelf life, they can last several months frozen. Or purée them with olive oil and freeze them for future use as a ramp oil.
There are so many other uses for ramps. Eaten both raw and cooked (sautéed, blanched, baked, broiled, you name it), ramps are particularly highlighted through grilling and pickling. Culinistas Chef DyAnne endorses this: “I would definitely say my favorite way to utilize ramps is to char them on the grill, or in a cast iron pan, and purée the garlicky green into a compound butter—a touch of lemon zest, salt & pepper and you can add a little bit of ramps to a lot of dishes.” They’re also delightful in dishes like soups, roasted spring vegetables, pastas, pork, veggie burgers, or stir fries. Utilize the bulbs like you would a scallion; add the stalks to dishes towards the end of cooking, or even blend them into a puree.