Other Ellen forages in the wild; I’m more likely to forage at the Greenmarket. Mid spring takes me to my favorite, Union Square, to seek ramps also known as wild leeks, (Allium tricoccum). Ramps are the first of the outdoor greens to be offered for sale in spring, prized by chefs and home cooks alike.
They have a sweetish, but
strong onion flavor, used by
AmerIndians and Settlers for
cooking, spring tonics, and
cures for colds, fevers, and
worms in children. They
grow wild from Nova Scotia
to Georgia and West to
Minnesota according to the
Audubon Field Guide to
North American Wild-
If you do go out foraging in the wild, seek them in moist woods, often under maple trees. Note that like many decorative Alliums, the leaves die back before the flowers appear. To mark a patch in summer for next springs’ harvest, look for flower stems with cream-colored umbels, leaves dead or dying back. Even then, it's hard to differentiate them from wild garlic (Allium canadense) and wild onion (Allium cernuum) which is unpleasantly strong. Use a good field guide.Check for a definite onion aroma of ramps to be safe from Death Camass.
Buy ramp bulblets or seeds for your own garden from the Ramp Farm. Although this farm still has seeds they're no longer taking orders for '09 shipments of the starters.
Usually one or
two stands sell
ramps in the
Greenmarket, often mobbed by area chefs, laden with a week’s supply. Edible parts are young leaves, stems and bulblets, as in scallions. Tasty varieties of mushrooms are available in the market simultaneously.
The New York Times offers a recipe or two every April. Here’s one of mine, a simple but delicious combination featuring ramps and mushrooms.Spring Rice Pilaf with Ramps
From Garlic, Onions & other Alliums by Ellen Spector Platt,
Stackpole Books, 2003
2 cups white or brown rice
4 cups boiling water
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ground pepper to taste
15 ramps, more or less
Two medium onions peeled and chopped
½ pound assorted mushrooms, washed, trimmed and sliced
1 cup dry white wine, such as Muscadet
Grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a saucepan, saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of butter until golden.
2. Stir in the rice until coated with butter. Add salt and pepper.
3. Pour in boiling water, cover the pan and cook gently for 30 minutes. Don’t lift the lid. After thirty minutes turn off the burner.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the ramps. Wash carefully, cut off roots and slip outer skin off stems. Cut off stems with bulblets and chop them. Chop leaves keeping them separate
5. In a shallow pan, saute the mushrooms in the rest of the butter for about ten minutes, and add the chopped ramp stems. Cook another minute or so, then add the wine and reduce. The mushrooms and ramps should be ready about the time the rice is ready.
6. Fluff the rice with a fork, add the mushroom mixture, fluff again. Then pour into serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped, uncooked ramp leaves. Serve with the grated cheese on the side.
Serves 8 as a side dish, or 6 as a main dish.