Ramping it up

20 April 2020

Today I was running in the woods of central Connecticut and I saw a sea of ramp leaves on the edge of the path. Ramps (AKA wild leeks) have 1-3 oval green leaves that come from one stem that is red-to-white. Ramps are one of the first edible spring greens that pop up in Connecticut.  They grow up to a foot high and tend to grow in clusters.  If you break off a piece of the ramp leaf you will immediately smell an odor of onions.  If you think you have found ramps, you should dig to make sure the plant has white bulbs. It is important to differentiate ramps from their poisonous look-a-likes, lily-of-the-valley.  Lily-of-the-valley do not have bulbs, have leaves that diverge from the stem above ground, and almost always have a flower stem.

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When foraging for ramps, you should find an area with plentiful ramps and take less than 75% of the ramps in that area. This is imperative so the ramps will come back year-after-year.  You can use a small shovel to loosen the dirt around the base of the ramp stem and then carefully remove the ramp with the bulb from the dirt.

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Carefully wash the ramps, removing any dirt. You can cut off the end of the bulb to remove the roots. The entire ramp is edible, except for the roots. You are now ready to use your foraged ramps to cook with and eat! Ramps have a milder onion flavor and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. I decided to use my ramps to make ramp pesto.

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Ramp Pesto Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped ramps (include leaves, stems, and bulbs)
  • 1 cup whole walnuts, toasted and then chopped
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesiano reggiano
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for topping if storing

Directions:

  1. Add chopped ramps, chopped walnuts, graded Parmesan, sea salt, and pepper to a food processor. Pulse until chopped very fine. Scrape sides of food processor as needed.
  2. With the food processor on, slowly pour in olive oil. Pulse until all ingredients are fully combined.
  3. You can enjoy the pesto with pasta, fish, or on toasted bread. If storing the pesto in the refrigerator, top with olive oil to keep the pesto from turning brown. Eat within one week.

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Amy Demers

Disclaimer: You should consult an expert before eating any foraged plants or mushrooms.

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