I’ve read about them for years, but this was the first time I tasted them. Ramps. Those pungent scallion-like first signs of spring for culinary buffs here in the Northeast. Venturing to the Mason Dixon Ramp Festival in Mt. Morris, PA, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, I found these garlicky buggers to be pretty darn tasty. The bulb of the ramp resembles a scallion, but the leaves are larger and floppier, a bit like rabbit ears, and they can be used similarly to scallions and leeks. According to the gentleman selling the fresh ramps at the festival, there are two types – ones with white stems and ones with purple stems. The purple stemmed ramps have a stronger odor. I bought the purple ones. What the heck, if I’m going to try ramps, I might as well go for the high octane version.
The Ramp Festival offered all sorts of ramp filled goodies – home fries with ramps, sausage with ramps, ramp soup, deep fried ramps, . .. . . . a lot to choose from. The longest line was for the deep fried ramps and they looked good, but, just so my stomach and I could have a pleasant ride back, I opted for the ramp burger.
There were ramp items to take home, too. Honey mustard with ramps and whiskey, ramp jelly and a beautifully wrapped Buerre de Ramps (see it in the first photo.) This butter, mixed with lemon zest, chopped ramps and salt, was rolled into small logs, making perfect circular slices when cut. I put a bit on top of a grilled bison steak for dinner and the flavor was incredible. The headiness of the ramps blended with the smooth taste of the butter and the grilled meat perfectly.
I haven’t seen ramps in the markets here, so if you want to try them, they can be ordered ( but do it fast . . it’s a short season) through Earthy Delights at earthy.com or you can visit a ramp festival. The website, kingofstink.com, lists all sorts of upcoming ramp events. Once in a while, a local restaurant gets hold of some ramps, and lucky for us, they’re on the menu (twice, no three times) at Kaya’s monthly vegetarian dinner this Wednesday, April 21. If you’ve never been to one of their veg dinners, you’re missing some inventive cuisine.
A P.S. from a blog I posted last week. The May 2010 issue of Cooking Light Magazine lists twelve must-haves for May. Fee Brother’s Bitters are included in the list. I bought mine at DiBruno Brothers in Philly, but they can also be ordered from amazon.com.