It’s Ramp Season — Here’s Why Foodies Are Obsessed With This Elusive Ingredient
Ramp up all your spring cooking.
If you follow any foodie accounts on social media, you’ve probably heard the news — it’s ramp season. But you’re forgiven for your confusion if you haven’t heard of this particular food before. “Why are foodies getting so hyped about… sloped surfaces?,” you might ask. As it turns out, ramps are actually a tasty, versatile, and highly coveted plant that you definitely don’t want to miss out on. They’ve available for only a few months of the year, typically beginning in early spring and ending in early June — so time is of the essence! Keep reading to learn more.
What are ramps?
Ramps, which are also known as wild leeks, are a kind of seasonal allium. Alliums include veggies like chives, garlic, leeks, scallions, and shallots — and as simple shortcuts to complex flavors, they’re every home cook’s best friend. Unlike their more widely-available siblings, ramps aren’t grocery store staples. The flavor of these leafy greens is often compared to a mellower version of garlic and onion. According to Bon Appétit, ramps get their distinctive name from a regional dialect; in Southern Appalachia, ramp is used as a colloquial word for “spring onion” or “wild leek.” They have stringy roots and thin stems similar to spring onions; however, unlike onions, ramps’ green tops fan out into broad leaves.
What are ramps good for?
Ramps are beloved not just for their taste, but for their exclusivity. Ramps only grow in certain regions of the Appalachian mountain range in Eastern North America, and can be found as far north as Quebec and down through New York, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Because they cannot be bought year-round, they feel rare and special.
Your best bet for finding ramps is at your local farmer’s market, though Bon Appétit warns “you’ll have to navigate a crowd of eager cooks who are also stocking up on ramp bundles.” Because of the high demand and limited window, ramps aren’t as cheap as your average allium. In fact, a pound may cost up to $20. Still, many people are willing to shell out for the opportunity to use these coveted and flavorful greens to elevate their spring cooking.
Like any good food trend these days, social media has played a key role in the ramp craze; enticing dishes highlighting the veggie are a warm-weather Instagram staple for many savvy chefs. If you live in an area where ramps grow and are feeling adventurous, you may even want to try foraging for them yourself, as some TikTok users have.
How can you use ramps?
There are countless ways to cook with this hot commodity. You can use ramps pretty much anywhere you’d use their allium siblings — but you’ll want to be aware of a couple things. First, you need to wash them thoroughly, and make sure you get rid of any dirt in their leaves; second, you should be careful with how you store them. MarthaStewart.com recommends sealing them in several plastic bags before putting them in the fridge. Once refrigerated, they’ll keep for three to four days, though they can also be frozen in a sealed container for up to a year, if you want to give your future self a taste of spring in the dead of winter. After you clean your ramps, simply trim the ends and strip off the outer layer, then use them in a dish of your choice.
Not sure where to start? Ramp is a great way to level up your sauces. Try Ramp Pesto for a twist on an Italian classic, Ramp Butter for a decadent yet savory spread, or Ramp Mayonnaise for upgrading all of your springtime sandwiches (did someone say Ramp BLTs?). Ramps can also be incorporated into eggs, pizza, or biscuits. You can even fry, pickle, or grill your ramps and eat them on their own. When it comes to ramp recipes, the sky’s the limit.
How To Make Ramp Butter
Ramp butter is an easy introduction to this beloved ingredient, so try this Ramp Butter recipe from the experts at the Food Network to start. You can melt it over a fresh cob of corn, slather it inside a baked potato, or simply spread it on your morning toast.
Ingredients (Yields 10 to 12 servings):
- Kosher salt
- 1 bunch ramps (about 6 ounces), root ends trimmed, rinsed well
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- Bring medium pot of salted water to boil over high heat; prepare large bowl of ice water. Add ramps to boiling water and stir to submerge. Let cook until wilted and dark green, about 1 minute. Immediately transfer to ice water with tongs and swirl around until completely cooled. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
- Roughly chop ramps and transfer to food processor (if you don’t have a food processor, finely chop ramps and mix everything together in a bowl). Pulse ramps until they are finely chopped, about 8 pulses. Add butter, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and crushed red pepper flakes if using. Process, scraping down sides halfway through, until butter is dark green and everything is well-combined, about 2 minutes.
- There are several ways to store ramp butter. You can transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 7 days. You can also transfer the butter to a piece of plastic wrap and roll it into a log, tying off ends to fully enclose it. Freeze the log for up to 3 months, slicing off pats of butter and re-wrapping whenever you want some.
We wish you a very happy ramp season, filled with all the fresh and revitalizing flavors of spring!