Winter is long in the Finger Lakes. Very very long. Snow, ice, and blustery winds keep us cooped up for the better part of six months. By March you begin to question if you’ve been remembering it rightly, did you really go swimming in those icy depths? Was there ever a time that you went without long underwear and wool sweaters? Do these barren fields ever warm up enough to grow crops? It seems impossible.
But warmth has finally returned! The geese have left and the songbirds returned. The lake has thawed out and is beginning to green along the bottom. Our backyard, the bottom of one of the many gorges cutting through the landscape, has gone from bare woods and a clear forest floor to a shady, bug-buzzed, green carpeted glen. In the woods I made a very exciting discovery, ramps.
A closer look reveals the reddish stems, a good sign that your random leaves might belong in a pizza. But ramps are a lot like green onions or leeks, the most identifiable portion of them is underground. So if you give them a little yank…
…you’ll see the snowy white bulb that shows your definitely on the right track.
Ramps are in the alium family and related to both garlic and onions. Predictably they have a mild flavor somewhere between those two aromatics. The hard white bulb can be sliced or diced and cooked like onion while the broad leaf can be chiffon-cut and cooked lightly, like spinach. Pulling these right from the wild means they are more organic than anything you could buy in the fanciest store, but it also means you are directly competing with spiders, slugs, and snails for first dips, so wash them well.
Maybe you’ve got ramps in your backyard as well? Or can purchase them at a farmer’s market? I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Ramp Pizza. Delish.
Good looking, no?
You might have noticed that I’m super stoked about hauling in some vegetables from the woods. Vegetables that aren’t terribly different for ones that I can buy for a couple bucks year-round from my dear local Wegman’s. Why? Tomorrow, dear readers, I’ll tell you tomorrow. (And it doesn’t have anything to do with that lovely pizza or the ramp calzones that followed the next day – mostly.)