Ramp dinner

Ramps, or rampion, is the name of the spring sprout of the wild leek or Allium ampeloprasum. Ramps smell like garlic and taste like leeks or onions. They grow in wet soil from South Carolina to Canada and are often the first green vegetable of Spring. They have a root end that looks like a scallion and broad leaves that look more like tulip leaves.

Cleaned ramps or wild leeks.

In the 18th century, the shores of Lake Michigan were thick with ramps, and the Indians of that era called them Chicagou. The city that sprang up on the shores of Lake Michigan is named after the vegetable. The German name for ramps is Rapunzel, the name of a fairy tale about a girl trapped in a tower. It was Rapunzel’s mother’s craving for ramps that creates the problem in the story.

My son foraged ramps on the East Coast and brought them with him to cook up for dinner. He’s a good cook, and offered to make two ramp dishes: ramps, potatoes and bacon as a side dish to barbeque and ramp pesto.

Closer view of ramp leaves.

He cleaned and trimmed the ramps. Like leeks, they are sandy. In a pan, he fried till crisp, four slices of bacon. He needed the bacon grease, so he didn’t microwave the bacon. He cut red potatoes in big chunks and sauteed them in the bacon grease till they were almost tender.

Combining bacon, potatoes, ramps, lemon juice and rosemary.

He then added the ramps, the juice of half a lemon and some finely chopped fresh rosemary. The bacon, which he cut into tiny rectangles, got sprinkled over the dish at the last moment.

Ramps, potatoes, bacon and lemon, ready to eat.

Plated, it looks fresh and appealing. The taste is wonderful. The smooth, bland potatoes are crispy, the bacon flavorful, and the ramps are tender but not limp with a bright garlicky flavor. It’s delicious.

Ramps, pecans, olive oil and lemon. Yum!

There were ramps left over. Because it’s a lot of work to find and clean them, my son decided to create ramp pesto to use every last leaf and bulb. In a blender he combined pecans, the ramps–both leaves and bulbs, olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice and zest. It looks like guacamole, but the taste is zippy, powerful, garlicky and rich. Tomorrow, we feast on ramp pesto pasta!

-Quinn McDonald and her husband, a professional personal chef, welcomed home the next generation of foody for a foraged feast.

17 thoughts on “Ramp dinner

    • I have two great cooks this weekend. CookingMan is a professional personal chef and FirstBorn is an excellent cook and hobby baker. Tomorrow, I’m back to lots of exercise!

  1. Indeed Quinn there is a fairytale named Repelsteeltje and as food there are Raapsteeltjes. They taste quite good and are summervegetables.
    That pesto is worth a try!

      • We also have pecannoten and walnoten and pijnbompitten (pine nuts) 😉

        Rampons here we usually eat raw finely chopped mixed through mashed potatoes together with lemonzest and sometimes fresh chives and fresh chopped onions – with porkchops or meatballs in gravy or fried bacon.
        It’s heavy food but good so now and then.

  2. Very interesting. I’ve heard of them before but never knew exactly what they were. Guess I’m not going to find any in Tucson! The potato dish looks really tasty.

    • Carolyn, you have the Sky Islands down in Tucson, and can find different climates on them. It would not be impossible to find these in a stream or marshy area. But you can probably buy them at Whole Foods–they are popular on the East Coast now, but hugely expensive. That’s how come these foraged ones were precious.

  3. Yumm that must have been so delicious! and that pesto really intrigues me.
    Those ramps look a bit like spring onions but that is not what they are.. I don’t think that I have ever tasted them? Would there be anything similar to ramps here in Europe?

    • I know in Germany they are called Rampfen or Rapunzel, so if you look up the Nederland version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (only that version has the ramps) Rapunzel’s pregnant mother craved these things, and her dad leapt into the witches garden to get them.

  4. Your post cracked me up because, when we lived in West Virginia, we found that there are only 2 kinds of people in this world: those who love ramps and those who cannot stand them.

    • I wouldn’t want to eat them every day. But once a year, yum! And since my son lives in Connecticut, and I’m in Arizona, well, I won’t be eating them anytime soon!

  5. Oh, I bet it smells yummy around your house! How awesome to have your son visit and cook for you! Enjoy his visit and have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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