Ramps: What are ramps and how do you cook them?

This week I got an e-mail from Cindy saying she had seen ramps in her local farmers’ market and she wondered what they were and how they are used.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum), aka “wild leeks,” belong to the onion family. Their flavor is somewhere between that of onions and very fresh garlic but with greater intensity. Ramps appear in the springtime in fields and light forests from the East Coast to the mid-West and as far south as Georgia. You will know they are there by their aroma on the breeze. When ready to harvest, ramps should have two or three broad, bright-green, leaves that are about six inches long and are attached to a small white bulb by purple stems. To use ramps, rinse them, trim off the root ends, and use them, whole or cut them into 2- to 3-inch pieces, as you would onions, leeks, or scallions. They are good braised, steamed, or stir-fried; make good custards, soufflés, and soups; and can be added to any meat or fish dish.

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