When spring comes, people who love food, cooking it and eating it, get all excited about ramps. I don’t think I had even heard of ramps until just a few years ago, let alone eaten them. I was certainly missing out. Ramps might not sound very appetizing but they are delicious.

They’re also very small, cute, and highly sought after. You’ll probably see them at your local farmer’s market and when you do, grab them. Ramps are only in season for a very short time and people will be grabbing them like they’re the last toys available on Christmas Eve. So grab some for yourself and read on to learn all about this spring sensation.

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1. What are Ramps?

ramps vermont girlvermontgirl/Flickr

Ramps go by many names. They are also known as wild leeks, spring onions, wood leeks, and Ramson. The name Ramson or ram’s son alludes to the zodiac sign of Aries, the ram, which coincides with the spring equinox. Their scientific name is Allium tricoccum.

The origins of ramps are in Appalachia where they grow in the wild and are a sign that spring has arrived in the mountain states of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In these areas, ramps are celebrated with festivals and dinners featuring many ramp recipes. Richwood, West Virginia claims to be the ramp capital of the world. Native Americans were said to use ramps as a tonic, detoxifier, and salve for bug bites.

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Ramps are members of the lily family and a cousin to onions, shallots, leeks, and garlic. They are often confused with wild garlic which is a different plant.

2. What Do Ramps Taste Like?

Spring Onion Farro Fritters With Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Radish and Tahini Mint Dressing [Vegan]

Ramps are delicious. They are similar to scallions, smell like garlic, and taste like a cross between onions and garlic. They taste stronger than leeks but have their sweetness. They add a peppery flavor to dishes and their taste is strong enough to use them as a dish on their own.

3. Selection, Storage and Prep    

ramps jeff heuerJeffHeuer/Flickr

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Ramps come into season for a short time in spring, around late March (if it’s warm) through May. Ramps have one or two delicate, smooth, wide, light green leaves, and a dark purple color on the bottom of the stems. The slender stalks and bulbs make them look like scallions. Farmers’ markets sell them in bunches like scallions. Don’t be surprised if they’re expensive; their scarcity makes them sought after and pricey, from $5 a bunch to $20 per pound.

Select ramps that look fresh and are not wilted. The leaves should be dark green and the odor should be strong. The ramps can stay in the fridge for a few days but are best used right away. If you need to store them, wrap them loosely in a damp paper towel and place them in a sealed plastic bag. When you’re ready to use the ramps, rinse them, trim the root hairs, and they’re ready to cook with.

4. What to Do With Ramps

Poppy-Seed-Ramp-Dressing

So you braved the crowd and plunked down money for some ramps. Now what should you do with them? The easiest thing is to just substitute them for scallions, garlic, or leeks in any recipes. Use them in flatbreads, salads, soups, frittatas, pasta, and risottos. Make them the star ingredient by simply sautéing them in oil or vegan butter until they are wilted and slightly charred. No other ingredients except salt and pepper are necessary! Try this recipe for Caramelized Leeks with Romesco Sauce but use ramps instead of leeks.

One way to keep ramps around long past their season is to pickle them. It’s really easy to do. Just combine equal amounts (about one and one-half cups) of vinegar, sugar, and water with your favorite herbs and spices such as mustard seed, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, salt, and allspice in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk until all the sugar and salt has dissolved. Pack the ramps into a jar with a tight-fitting screw-top lid. Pour the brine over the ramps until the jar is filled. Let it all come to room temperature and then put it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. For more pickling tips, read Preserving The Season: What Foods You Should Pickle And How To Do It.

5. Recipes

Quinao-Pilaf-with-Ramps-Artichokes-and-Peas

If you need recipes and ideas, we have plenty. Ramps are delicious in pesto. This Ramp and Spinach Pesto Pasta uses spinach to temper the garlic and onion for a green and glorious dish. Another pesto dish is this Ramp and Brazil Nut Pesto With Artichokes on Socca which is perfect for a lovely springtime brunch.

This Quinoa Pilaf with Ramps, Artichokes, and Peas is a beautiful spring dish with baby artichokes and a bunch of ramps. These Spring Veggie Farro Fritters are packed with bright seasonal produce. The fritters have spring onions and carrots and sit atop a salad with baby spring mix, radishes, garden peas, and asparagus.

Make a compound butter with them for the most incredible “garlic bread” and bruschetta. Use this recipe for Garlicky Chive Blossom Butter but swap out the chives for ramps.

Use your ramps to make this Poppy Seed Ramp Dressing. It’s a mix of ramps, your favorite oil, radishes for crunch, cashews for a creamy consistency, balsamic vinegar for punch and nutritional yeast. This dressing is perfect as a salad dressing, a dip, a marinade, or anything else you can think of.

Ramps are in season for such a short time so make sure to get some at your local farmer’s market. If you like onions and garlic, you’ll love the taste of ramps and you’ll want to use them in all your recipes.

Image source: Ramp and Brazil Nut Pesto With Artichokes on Socca