What Are Ramps, Exactly—and How Do You Cook With Them?
Because you're not the only one wondering.
Spring is just around the corner, which means that ramps season is about to be in full force. If you’ve never cooked with ramps before, you’re in for a garlicky, oniony, delicious treat. But what exactly are ramps anyway, and how do you cook with them? Below, we’re dishing out everything you need to know about this seasonal green.
What are Ramps?
Like onions, garlic, scallions, and leeks, ramps—aka allium tricoccum—are part of the allium family (but we promise they won’t make you cry like a big ole yellow onion). They’re a wild plant that peaks in springtime and typically grows on the East Coast along the Appalachian Mountain range. As soon as the warm weather hits, ramps quickly deteriorate, so make use of them while they’re at their best. Look for ramps at local farmers’ markets or Whole Foods in order to get the freshest bunch. They can be pricey, due to their high demand, but they get even more expensive as their season dwindles, so stock up early.
So, What Do They Taste Like?
More flavorful than scallions and leeks, but not quite as potent as garlic or onions, ramps can add a fantastic earthy and savory quality to your recipes. You can eat them raw, but their flavor becomes a little bit softer when they’re sautéed in a tablespoon of butter or oil.
How to Cook with Them
From their small white bulb that resembles a spring onion to their large green leaves, every part of a ramp is edible (just trim off the roots at the end of the bulb). Slice ramps thin like garlic or shallots and sauté them for a springtime pasta dish, a breakfast omelet, or rich pan sauce. Or use an entire bunch of ramps in our Universal Pesto Recipe. You could also make a savory compound butter or pickled ramps, both of which will preserve their flavor well beyond April showers and May flowers.
How to Clean and Store Ramps
Ramps are a variety of wild leeks, which means that, like the ombré green stalks, ramps need to be thoroughly cleaned, as dirt and mud can easily get trapped in them. Wash them as soon as you take them home and then wrap them loosely in a damp paper towel and place them in an airtight container or storage bag. Their oniony, garlicky aroma is spectacular, yes, but it’s also super strong. Keeping them sealed versus loose in your crisper drawer will help to prevent making your apples, Parmesan cheese, leftover Chinese food, and everything else in your refrigerator smell and taste like ramps.