Spring has sprung and with warmer weather upon us, wild edibles are growing rampantly. Wild leeks, a.k.a. ramps, are beginning to appear both in the woods and can even be found at your local Whole Foods Market. Ramps have a flavor that is a mix of onions and garlic, yet more wild and spicy tasting than a traditional leek and can be used wherever shallots or conventional leeks are used. They are high in vitamins A and C, making them a tasty and nutritious choice.
When foraging for ramps in the woods, choose plants that have at least 2-3 bright green leaves, as yellowing or withering leaves are older plants that will not taste as good. Ramps should have a small white bulb attached by a purple stem and be about 6 inches in length. A good test to be sure you are looking at a wild leek, is to pull one and smell it - if it smells like an onion, it's a wild leek . They are typically found in sandy, moist soil near streams in wooded areas. Use caution when foraging for wild leeks, since they are similar in appearance to the poisonous lily of the valley, but if is smells like an onion, it should be safe. If you are unsure, consult someone with experience foraging for wild plants. Also, keep in mind that due in part to their growing popularity, ramps have become endangered in some areas, such as Quebec, so when foraging don't take more than half of the cluster, so that the plant has a chance to survive for next year.
To prepare ramps, pull off the papery leaf around the stem and trim the roots. Wrap the ramps up tight and store in the fridge, but try to use them as soon as possible, as they will start to wilt within a few days. The recipe below is a fantastic and simple way to prepare ramps, but they can also can be used in a variety of different dishes, such as added to pizzas, soups and omelets.
Handful of ramps fresh from the woods (or the supermarket/food co-op)
1/4 cup walnuts
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
2 T olive oil
1 T honey (preferably a dark honey)
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
Chop the ramps and add them to a food processor along with walnuts, lemon juice, honey and cheese. Add olive oil slowly, running food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pesto can be added to many meals, such as pizza, pasta, sandwiches and quiche or made in large batches at once & stored well in the freezer for months on end which is great when working with ingredients that have such a short season.
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