I was at the farmers’ market on an Saturday in mid-April cruising through the rows of vegetables, when I saw something exciting enough to stop me in my tracks. It couldn’t be. It was too early. Could it be? It was. Ramps! And where there are ramps, there’s a Wild Ramp (Spring Onion) Pesto recipe to be made!
What are Ramps?
Ramps, you might ask? As in the inclined walkway? No, no. Ramps are wild spring onions. Ramps wild spring onions—also called ramsons, wild leeks, wood leeks, wild garlic. Scientifically, they’re known as Allium tricoccum. With a small, white bulb and hairy root, they resemble scallions and are foraged from shady, woody areas just a few weeks from late April to early June.
Ramps appear for a fleeting moment at farmers’ markets come spring—and one of the first edible green things available. You can also find ramps in shady, woody, moist areas. They’re native to mountainous forests in the eastern North America—as far north as Canada and as far south as North Carolina and as far west as Missouri. To harvest ramps, just loosen the soil with a trowel; then use a knife to sever the ramp roots beneath the bulb and pull out the roots!
What Do Ramps Taste Like?
The flavor of ramps is lovely—a mix of onion and garlic. Use ramps in recipes as you would scallions or spring onions. Back when I worked at a farm on the East Coast, we would have samples of ramp pesto for customers to try. It’s incredible. As the person in charge of making said samples, I decided that I was therefore allowed to eat copious amounts of it when customers were not around! It’s divine on a sandwich, on crostini, on a potato salad, or simply on a spoon.
Convinced yet? Give this ramp pesto a try. You’ll never think of inclined walkways the same way again.
Wild Ramp (Spring Onion) Pesto Recipe
1 bunch ramps
½ cup walnuts (toasted)
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper
⅓ cup olive oil (or ½ cup—you kind of have to eyeball it)
squirt of lemon juice
1. Wash and cut off the leaves of the ramps.
2. Chop the ramps and walnuts just a bit and put them in your food processor.
3. Add most of the cheese (save a sprinkle for serving) and a good dash of salt and pepper.
4. Pouring the olive oil in slowly, process contents until they combine and look, well … pesto-y.
5. Taste for seasoning and add a good squirt of lemon juice.
Wild ramp pesto! Served as a side with warm pita and bulgur with butternut squash and chard