Scorpacciata: On ramps
June 8th, 2011
12:45 PM ET
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Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. Let Mario Batali pronounce it for you.

"Ramps...huh?" "What the heck is ramp puree?"

As soon as we posted the menu for last night's White House State Dinner, the question began rolling in from my colleagues, commenters, folks on Twitter - and I realized I oughta get my head out of my ramp patch and explain.

Ramps are a member of the allium family (Allium tricoccum if you care to get all categorical about it) and are akin to a wild onion. The flavor is pungent and slightly nutty - somewhere between garlic and leeks, and both the leafy tops and tender bulbs are edible.

Food fanatics get all het up about them because they're, well, incredibly delicious - but also because they're somewhat of a rarity. They're difficult, if not impossible to cultivate, so they must be foraged from the wild or as is often the case, bought at a premium from someone else who's gone out to do the dirty work.

They're also only in season for a very brief window in the spring, so chefs and home cooks get a tad fanatical about jamming as many of them onto their menus and into their ramp holes as humanly possible during these few weeks. This has led to a certain amount of food world backlash as of late. ("OMG, ramps are so, like Spring 2010. I'm so over ramps. Ramps are so, like whatever.")

These people are wrong. Ramps remain thoroughly scrumptious, year after year - a springy little "Huzzah!" from the earth - and I thoroughly support the ridiculous grousing because I live in fear that these people will find and plunder my secret foraging spot over by the...wait, I'm not telling you.

Oh - how to eat 'em. Not raw, lest you've got a vampire garde a manger you're attempting to ward off. They stink in that state - at least according to my husband, who pulled over to ask me to re-pack my bounty in the back of the car lest he perish from the stench. Better to puree (a la the White House), sautee to serve atop pasta or pizza, fry, pickle, or in general treat as you would a scallion or green garlic.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy them (and I realize this flies in the face of the not-raw rule, so I never serve this to company or, you know, other people) is to pound the greens and bulbs into pesto and spread on crackers, stir into pasta or drizzle atop roasted chicken. It works well anywhere you'd use a traditional basil pesto and can be frozen in ice cube trays (though you'll want to hold off adding the cheese until you're ready to thaw and serve it) to let a taste of spring pop up after all the ramp chatter has wilted away.

Kat's Ramp Pesto
(originally published at Slashfood)

Ingredients (quantities to taste)

Handful of ramps – bulbs and greens
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Pine Nuts
Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

Pre-chop greens and bulbs into 1/2 inch pieces on a cutting board, and place in mortar or rough-textured bowl with a pinch of kosher salt. With a pestle or wooden spoon, grind the ramp against the surface of the bowl, using the salt's grit to help break down the fibers until they form a somewhat uniform paste.

Sprinkle in pine nuts and crush them into the paste with the mortar. Once they're integrated, drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly until the desired consistency is achieved. Sprinkle in grated parmesan cheese to taste.



soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. "Wildman" Steve Brill

    I'm a naturalist, author, and environmental educator who teaches foraging throughout the Greater NY area. Ramps are fantastic raw or cooked. It's hard to go wrong however you cook them. But the plant Rapunzel's dad stole was the rampion, a European plant after which the American ramp was named, not the ramp itself. And the bulbs are in season almost all year. You just pick a small proportion of each bunch, and the ramps keep coming back. And you need to recognize the flower stalk, flowers, seed stalk, seeds, and winter skeleton. They're on my website, wildmanstevebrill.com, along with many other delicious wild edible plants, and in my new app, WildEdibles, http://tinyurl.com/6zcnuna, available in the iTunes Store. Hope everyone gets to safely enjoy some of our many common edible renewable resources.

    June 8, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I foraged with this man in Central Park, many years ago. He knows of what he speaks.

      June 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  2. Kevin

    Just be careful that the ramps you pick don't belong to a evil witch! (Doesn't anyone read 'Grimms Fairy Tales' anymore?)

    June 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  3. WVJim

    If you leave a small amout of the bulb on the roots and put them back into the ground as soon as you clean them, they will grow again next season, that is how I keep my patch healthy from year to year, plus leaving some to seed doesn't hurt either...

    June 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  4. Paul McKinnon

    Ramps grow in the wild. You should only use the tops and let the roots produce again... PMcK.

    June 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  5. WV MTN Momma

    My mother has a patch in the woods behind her house. When they are in season and ripe, she places them in a food dehydrator and uses them all year long. They taste just as yummy!

    June 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • grofys

      yes, it's amazing how wonderful and satisfying wild food is.

      June 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  6. grofys

    ramps have been growing in my garden and i have been eating them. yum. lovage is also wonderful, although an herb.

    June 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  7. John

    You got to be kidding me ....ramps is good raw and who in the heck would puree ramps. Why pureeing ramps is a disgrace to the ramp. The mountains in the Southern Appalachians are full of ramps; and yes you are correct, they are a lot of work to dig and clean, but well worth the trouble. Ramps is especially good when cooked with potatoes or eggs, They are most often served with pork, potatoes, and green beans. If you are brave enough, next spring, watch for local ramp festivals in the mountain counties of North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia. I promise you will be treated to a cullinary delight. Oh and by the way, eating ramps in the spring will ward off winter colds and kill the winter worms.

    June 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • aj

      Being from West Virginia, spring ramps and ramp festivals are not news to me.

      But....dare I ask.....what are "the winter worms"????

      June 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Shirley U Jest

      Hey john, judging by some of the 5@5 chefs recently, pureeing things is the current fad. Kind of like peanut butter but different. Some regulars here might think: What good is it If you can't spread it on a piece of meat?

      Thanks for describing how you pureed the ramps without an electric appliance. Serious. This method can create a more coarse, not so manufactured texture that lets flavors linger longer on the tongue. Sometimes its a joy to make things like WAY back when, in the old days, before the blender and cuisnart was invented. Often times they turn out better. I'm all hepped up to try this and I bet it'll get skarffed up in a New York minute.

      And yeppers, a ramp pesto should taste good as a topping on a homemade pizza baked on a heavy stone (scrap from a stone counter store works) sitting in a hot hot hard wood charcoal fired grill or smoker. Gas fueled even. Or marry this pesto by rolling it with roasted bell peppers basil leaves and prosciutto in a butterflied flank steak. Oh, the possibilities. Thanks again.

      June 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  8. Arcwraith

    This is news?

    June 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Arcwraith Destroyer

      To people following food news stories, it is.

      June 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Mario

      If you read it on the innerwebs, its big news.

      June 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  9. Joe

    You've obviously never been to West Virginia - they are plentiful in the spring and there is even a Ramp Festivle complete with a Ramp Queen

    June 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  10. Mike

    Living in WV, ramps are a sign of spring. I use them in cooking many things, but my specialty is a ramp kimchi.

    June 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Mario

      whoot, i bet that has a zing to it! Sounds good.

      June 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • George

      yes pinto beans and ramp signs everywhere. yeap must be spring in WV. Missed out this year.

      June 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  11. April

    Oh.. I bet no one gets close to President Obama on them days!
    I love some good old ramps but they are out of season and I did not get to go to the ramp festival this year. It really pays to be the him.

    June 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  12. chefc

    I have a ramp patch walking distance from my house near Asheville. They ars yummy any way you prepare them. Ramp pesto sounds good to me!

    June 8, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  13. not rare

    These are not rare, you can get them at any Indian grocert store near you at 3 bunches for a dollar !

    June 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • chefc

      Only in season though

      June 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  14. Amayda

    Where I come from (Morel Mushroom country) ramps are a snack to eat while mushroom hunting. ;)

    June 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      Oregon?

      June 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
      • Amayda

        Michigan

        June 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • George

      yes the good times doing it just that way.

      June 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  15. Mildred

    Ok... if I can find fresh ramps again I'm *so* trying that recipe.

    June 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Mario

      Go out in your yard and pick them out of your yard, so similar most people won't know the difference.

      June 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
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