Ramps: The Fun of Foraging for Your Own Food

Have you ever foraged for your own food? I’ve long had dreams of hunting for truffles deep in the forests of Provence. However, I didn’t foresee that happening in the near future, so I decided to settle for a more local option and went on a “ramp-age” here in northern Westchester.

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In case you were wondering what ramps are, they’re wild onions that have one or two flat, broad leaves and a white, elongated bulb. According to eater.com, “Ramps look like scallions, but they’re smaller and slightly more delicate. They taste stronger than a leek, which generally has a mild onion flavor, and are more pungently garlicky than a scallion.”

My friend Roberta had been anxiously awaiting ramp season all winter long, and started searching for them at a local park at the start of April. They hadn’t popped out yet, but after a few outings, she tracked them down. One early morning a couple of weeks ago, she brought me and my friend Hillary along with her to get our stash.

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The three of us wandered the trails, listening to the birds chirp and keeping our eyes peeled for the telltale sign of the ramp’s green double leaves. Finally, we wandered down a path to find pay dirt – a valley bursting with patches of ramps! We spent the next 20 minutes squatting down and clipping ramp leaves. In order to be sustainable, we only cut one leaf from the plant and left the rest, including the bulb. It’s important not to dig up the whole plant so that it will grow back the following year. Also, filling up a plastic grocery bag will give you more than enough to make close to a pint of ramp pesto, so don’t be greedy!

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After searching the Internet for a good ramp pesto recipe, I found a great one on foodandstyle.com that I slightly adapted. Instead of sautéing the ramps in butter, I decided to blanch them in boiling water. Afterward, I plunged the ramps into a bowl of ice water, then squeezed them dry with paper towels. This is an important step – make sure you get all the liquid out of the ramps or you will have a watery pesto!

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What I like about this recipe is the fresh accent the lemon zest and juice adds to the pesto. It also calls for pine nuts, Reggiano Parmesan, and sea salt, which you mix in a food processor. The final touch was to drizzle in some olive oil, and voila, you have a great ramp pesto!

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I like to serve my ramp pesto over penne pasta with sundried tomatoes and bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls). There’s definitely a thrill in eating something you’ve foraged for on your own!

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Ramp Pesto

Adapted from foodandstyle.com

Ingredients

  • 6 oz ramps – root ends trimmed, stalks and leaves cut in 1/4″ slices (2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (use a microplane grater)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Reggiano Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a teaspoon of salt. Set a large bowl of ice water nearby. Plunge the ramp leaves into the boiling water for one minute. Remove and quickly cool them down in the ice water. Squeeze dry with a tea cloth or paper towels.

Let the blanched ramps cool to room temperature. Place them in the bowl of a food processor. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, sea salt, and olive oil and process for about one to two minutes until the mixture forms a creamy paste, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice. Transfer to a container. Use right away, refrigerate for up to three days, or freeze for up to one month.

 

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