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Spring Ingredient Essentials: Ramps

Known as wild leeks, ramps are coveted for their uniquely aromatic and sharp garlic-onion flavor as well as their nutritional benefits. Ramps are high in Vitamin A and Vitamin E, both essential nutrients for healthy eyes, teeth and bones, as well as Vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system and cardiovascular system. Along with fighting against free radicals in the body, ramps and their high Vitamin C content were also used to prevent scurvy in the 18th century. Imagine that! At just over 50 calories per cup, it is easy to see why ramps are so popular!

How do I pick the best ramps?

Ramps are only around for a few months, from April through June, so keep your eyes peeled for these gems. If you are lucky enough to find some in your local market, choose ramps that have bright, crisp green leaves and fresh, plump bulbs. The stems and bulbs should be firm, and if the roots are still attached ensure they are fresh and dry. Skip over any ramps that are soggy, soft, have brown spots or slimy roots. Sure they are only available for a limited time, but that means you need to do your best to get the best of the bunch!

What can I make with ramps?

Ramps are renowned for their strong garlic aroma and sharp onion flavor. Use them as you would scallions, fresh garlic, or onions. Though fresh ramps are often chopped and used to accent a dish, their unique flavor works nicely in soups and stews. Chopped ramps can be added to scrambled eggs, creamy mashed potatoes and rice dishes for an extra punch in flavor. Fried ramps make an excellent topping for roasted chicken, grilled steak or roasted potatoes. Add ramps to any dish that could use a touch of garlic-onion flavor. Take note, ramps should be added at the end of the cooking process to keep their bright color and fierce flavors intact.

To prep ramps simply rinse under cool water. Then lightly scrub to remove any dirt on the stem, leaves and bulbs, and cut off the roots. From here, julienne the leaves, chop the stem and slice the bulbs as needed. For fresh ramp flavor all year long, rinse, chop and freeze ramps in an air-tight ziplock bag. Fresh, unwashed ramps will remain so for up to a week if wrapped loosely in paper towel and stored in the refrigerator crisper.

Recipes to try include: Green Onion and Chorizo Quesadilla (sub ramps for green onion), Caramelized Fennel and Onion Tarts (sub ramps for onion), and Creamy Garlic Scape Mushroom Rice (sub garlic scales for ramps).

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