Maybe it is just because I have been in ramp heaven throughout the past three weeks, finding vast caches of wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) on our forays and loving ever minute of it. Or perhaps it is because I grew up in a household where every meal began with a head of garlic, and the unmistakably garlicky scent and flavor of the ramp satisfies my life-long love affair with this pungent allium. The bottom line is that I just can’t get enough of ramps, and these days they seem to be showing up on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. From lightly sautéing ramps in a tad of olive oil, salt and pepper, to featuring them in omelets, soufflés, quiches, sandwiches, risottos, burritos, soups, and pasta dishes, it is beginning to seem that there isn’t anything that doesn’t go well with ramps.
Throughout the past two weeks, Ari and I have been obsessively eating and discussing ramps, excitedly proclaiming all of the wonderful things we could make with them. The list seems to be growing. While my adoration of ramps may border on excessive, I am not the only one. When combing through the NY Times a few weeks ago, I noticed that two restaurants would be featuring four and seven-course fixed price ramp feasts (in one case, including ramp martinis and wine).
Then, I was delighted to read an article about ramps in this season’s issue of Edible Fingerlakes and view a photograph of a wild leek aficionado proudly displaying his ramp tattoo. While I don’t feel called to express my love for these tender greens through body art, I can relate to his motive.
Alas, ramp season will not last forever and these savory plants, now seemingly everywhere in Ithaca’s forests, will soon wither as the trees leaf out. How can I prolong my enjoyment of this spring ephemeral? Making and freezing ramp pesto has been one of my favorite ways to preserve this wild edible so that it can be enjoyed in future months. Not surprisingly, this is my favorite alternative to basil pesto!
Makes about 1½ cups pesto, or a generous 8oz.
- 3 oz. or 2 cups ramp leaves, packed
- ½ cup lightly toasted pine nuts (pecans or walnuts are a tasty substitute)
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the ramps by removing and setting aside the bulbs if they are still attached (see our recent article, The Ramp Ritual, for a discussion of harvesting technique). Blanch 50-100% of ramps for 30 seconds, depending on desired potency of garlic flavor, and then immediately place under cold water. Then, remove the ramps from the water and thoroughly drain. In the past I have used 100% raw ramps, but not without suffering from dragon breath and heartburn!
Pulse all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor to form a coarse paste. Then, add the olive oil and pulse briefly. Serve with pasta, on pizza, in a sandwich, or as a garnish on meat or seafood. Mangia!