i’ve been reading about ramps for years and the first time i had them they were rolled into homemade butter from the local epicurean in downtown grand rapids. they are so crisp and garlicky they make everything just pop. last year on our way home from northern michigan we stopped and grab some from the woods but i forgot them in the back of the truck and they were wilted and withered by the next day when i remembered them. this year thought i went legit foraging for them when i was up at the leelanau peninsula and i found a treasure trove of them in the woods. if you can’t find ramps you can make a pesto with really any leafy green. for the butter you could use garlic or shallots instead of ramp bulbs and for pickling try with pearl onions.
here is the thing about ramps. they’re wild and cannot be grown. it takes three years for them to grow and develop in to two leaves. they also grow in clusters so you only want to take 10% of a cluster otherwise they will not grow back the next year. by taking only 10% that leaves room for others who might be foraging ensuring the entire thing will not be dug up and gone forever. also you want to pull up the entire ramp. grab ahold at the base and slowly move your hand from side to side until the bulb feels free from the earth and pull straight up. you are going to want to store these as fast as you can to prevent them from wilting. wash them clean under cold water pulling away the earthy outer shell. really scrub in between the leaves as dirt hides in the base. if you are not going to use them right away they will keep for about 1-2 days (greens shorter than bulbs) in the refrigerator wrapped in a wet paper towel and sealed in a plastic bag. you are going to use the entire ramp (green leaves and white bulbs)
the first thing I made was ramp pesto.
4 cups of ramp greens, blanched and rinsed. (place greens into boiling water for 2 seconds, remove and run under cold water to stop cooking process, allow to drain while you prep everything else)
1 cup of pecorino romano cheese
1 cup of shelled and chopped walnuts
1 cup of olive oil (plus more if it seems dry)
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 tsp salt
combine everything until smooth in a food processor and place into sealed jars. will keep about 2 weeks in refrigerator.
with the remaining greens i made ramp butter. my friend ashley made hers with only the bulbs and i made mine with both the bulbs and the greens. i wish i would have blanched these greens as well but it was still delicious.
salt and pepper
you are going to have a 2 to 1 ratio of butter to ramps. i used a 2lbs of softened unsalted butter and 1lb of ramps. i minced the ramps in the food processor and then added in the butter with a paddle attachement. add in some salt and pepper to taste. i then placed the butter into 1/4 pound cylinders on parchment paper, rolled it up and then let it chill in the refrigerator. i then sliced it smaller and put it into freezer bags where it will keep about 3 months.
and then finally with the bulbs left over from my pesto i pickled them.
6-8oz of ramp bulbs
1tsp of red pepper flakes
2 tsp of fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 cup of water
1 cup of white wine vinegar
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tbsp salt
*recipe adapted from bon appetit
I placed the ramp bulbs tightly in a pint jar and tossed in the red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, bay leaves and black peppercorns.
i brought the water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil until the sugar and salt were dissolved and then poured over the ramp bulbs, sealed and allowed to cool before refrigerating. these should keep about 2 weeks.
i find my ramps in northern michigan. see where here.