Plus, four ways to use the beloved wild allium.

By Rebecca Firkser
May 09, 2018
Credit: Photo: Getty Images

Did you hear those thundering footsteps Saturday morning? That was the sound of hundreds of food-obsessed folks scouring every farmers market in the continental United States for ramps.

Ramps are a North American wild allium (member of the onion family) with an edible bulb and stalk. Sometimes called wild leeks, wild garlic, and wild spring onions (though they’re nothing like a leek, garlic, or onion you’d find year-round at the grocery store), ramps have a garlicky flavor but are mild enough to be eaten raw, like a scallion.

The plant is only in season for a very short period of time, from late April to early June. Their popularity, however, isn't the main reason that ramps are so pricey. If you see a high price tag on ramps (they can be over $20 a pound), you're not getting ripped off; this has to do with the rarity of the plant.

Perennial plants that grow wildly in a large portion of the Eastern United States and Canada, ramps can take up to seven years to be mature. As they are wild, the vast majority of ramps are foraged rather than harvested from a farm like other produce. Unfortunately, when ramps are pulled from the ground, root and all, they won’t re-grow. While many foragers now pay close attention to the quantity of ramps they harvest each season (in addition to the manner in which they harvest those plans), because ramps have been so commercially exploited in the past, they’re considered a “special concern” plant in danger of extinction in certain areas.

So it's best to avoid ordering five-pounds of ramps on the internet. But if you pick up a couple handfuls from a forager at your local farmers market, you’re going to need some breakfast ideas. I’ve got you covered.

In a Salad

Finely chop ramp leaves and toss them with leafy greens in your breakfast salad (they go especially well with fresh, peppery arugula). To create a range of flavor, roast ramp bulbs with salt and olive oil at 400ºF for 10 minutes, then plop those on the salad as well.

With Eggs

Ramps go with eggs in every possible way. Chop the whole stalk and toss it into a scramble; saute the leaves and bulbs separately in butter and scoop them onto a fried egg; arrange a few full stalks on top of a quiche or frittata. The list goes on, but I think you can take it from here.

In Breakfast Tacos and Burritos

Instead of garnishing your breakfast taco or burrito with minced raw or pickled onion, swap in minced ramps. You will not be disappointed. (For more on pickling ramps, read on.)

Turn Them Into Pesto or Pickles

Ramp pesto shows up on menus left and right for a reason—the flavor is out of this world. However, you don’t have to spend $24 on an entree to get your fix. Blend ramps with parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and nuts like almonds, walnuts, or pistachios until smooth, then serve on everything from breakfast pasta to savory yogurt and porridge bowls, to roasted vegetables.

Quick-pickled ramps are super easy: Boil red or rice wine vinegar with sugar, salt, chile flakes, and peppercorns, then toss that liquid over three-inch pieces of ramp stalks and bulbs (save the leaves for something else) in a Mason jar. Srew on the lid and let the ramps pickle for at least an hour, then store in the fridge for a week or so.