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Something there is that doesn’t love a ramp.

I moved to New York City from San Francisco in January.  Shopping predominantly in farmer’s markets, I went from a world of fresh citrus and glorious greens to a diet of nothing but root vegetables.  Don’t get me wrong, I love root vegetables (and hot house greens on occasion) but I have been yearning for something fresh, local, and colorful.  This weekend, ramps answered my prayers.

I had no idea what a ramp was until last Saturday when I stopped by my first of three farmer’s markets.  Walking through the crowded paths, I heard couples  literally exclaiming to one another ‘Look!  Ramps!  It’s spring!’  Like the robin, the ramp seems to be nature’s way of telling North Easterners that warmth is on its way.

A ramp is essentially a wild leek – with garlic and onion undertones and a nice musty flavor.  A large bunch cost $2 to $3.  Farmer’s gladly sold them to me with a smile of pride like a new parent.  ‘They grow wild by my stream’ one woman told me.  ‘They’re only going to be here for four more weeks – then they’ll be gone again’ another warned with a hushed voice.  Since first discovering this lovely root, I have gone through four bunches – sliced and fried with greens and all.  They have appeared in nearly every meal I’ve cooked.

So, welcome spring!  And welcome new and green foods into my diet!

Ramp Recipe: Ramp Pesto
by Executive Director Erika Lesser

If you have a favorite pesto recipe, simply substitute ramps for the basil (and the garlic – which you definitely won’t need with pungent ramps). Otherwise, rinse and chop two bunches of fresh ramps, both
roots and leaves, and throw in food processor with two fistfuls of pine nuts, one handful of grated Parmigiano or Pecorino, salt and pepper to taste and a couple glugs of olive oil. Process in brief bursts – just 5 or 10 seconds at a time – scraping down the sides and tasting as you go. Keep the chute open so you can add more oil while it blends, until the mixture is smooth and saucy.

Spoon into the smallest jar that it will fit in, keep in fridge, and eat with virtually anything. Spread on toast with scrambled eggs, stir into pasta, mix a dollop into any chunky vegetable soup (even borscht – I just tried it), dip raw or cooked vegetables into it . . . . it’s all good.

Just beware of ramp belches; warn your co-workers and share at the lunch table. No one should mind that much if everyone smells the same.

photo by Niemster, from flickr Creative Commons