For the casual home chef, shelling out the dough for a pound of ramps at your local farmer’s market or Whole Foods can be difficult to justify… until you inhale their unique and incredible aroma, and have your first taste of this sweet and garlicky green onion.
Ramp season is only active for about 3 weeks of the entire year— they are one of the very first crops to push through the Spring frost and announce that warmer days are ahead. And once they’ve made their introduction to the scene, they are harvested and gone for the rest of the year. Only 10% of crops are ethically harvested every 10 years, as seeds take 6-18 months to germinate, and the plants take 5-7 years to produce seeds. Their sheer scarcity makes them so tres cherie, their rarity in flavor makes them unforgettable.
I’ve been reading about ramps and their unique, delicate essence for years. As an avid consumer of all kinds of culinary media (Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Epicurious at the top of my reading list— R.I.P. Gourmet), I have become fascinated by their aloofness— never able to actually see ramps in the stores, or offered on menus (aside from the occasional pizza).
This year, as I’ve recently moved into a new home with a large kitchen, I’ve been anxious to cook and entertain. In an effort to host a dinner party before the baby comes, I planned a belated Easter dinner for our new friends. In order to celebrate the onset of Spring properly, I really wanted to cook a dish with ramps. Already running late in the season, I was lucky to find some small “Wild Baby Leeks/Ramps” (as they were labeled) at $20/lb at Whole Foods.
To be honest, I didn’t notice the price until I got to the register and the cashier politely informed me of the expense. She was alarmed at the cost, and had someone double check the tag for me. I’m sure I turned a shade of rhubarb-pink right there in front of her, but I went ahead with the purchase anyway. This was a rare expense for a rare occasion— who knows when I’ll again have the capacity to entertain friends at home with a 5-course meal when all I can fathom in my foreseeable future is breastfeeding and side-strapping an infant to my hip?
So I forked over the funds for my fistful of ramps, and took them home to make this recipe by Bon Appetit.
First order of business: giving the ramps a quick rinse in cold water, patting dry, and burying my nose into their dark green leaves. I had my husband do the same, and waited for his reaction, before I told him how much they cost.
“Holy crap, those smell incredible! What are those?” He still balked at the price, but now he was as anxious to taste the final product as I was.
The recipe by Bon Appetit for Pasta with Ramp Pesto and Guanciale is simple enough, but I found the initial act of cleaning the ramps laborious and time-consuming. The little ramps were very ripe, and coated in a slick, mucous-like slime of onion-layers that needed to be peeled back and discarded before I could begin the rest of the prep. As they were so small and delicate, I took care not to break off or peel any usable part of the onion, and I probably spent close to an hour cleaning the full pound of them.
However, once that step was complete, I felt like I had gained a deeper appreciation of their charm— bent over a sink and breathing in their subtle aroma for an hour put me in a state of relaxed calm and gratitude for being able to devote the time and energy to caring for this part of my upcoming meal. Such fragile little leek babies that I was tenderly preparing to pulverize into an incredible pesto…
It took real resistance not to spoon the pesto straight into my mouth after blending; it didn’t need pasta to accompany it! But I waited a full day before I served the pesto to my dinner guests. Whether or not the others noticed its esoteric flavor, my husband couldn’t stop raving about it. In fact, he was the one to polish off the leftovers within a day or so of our dinner party, reminiscing out loud about those final fragrant flavors which at that point I was desperately missing (searching the fridge— where’s the pasta?!). I’ll have to wait another full year before I get the chance to taste this delicacy again!
Want my full dinner party menu? Click the links below!
My Belated Easter Dinner Party Menu:
Trader Joe’s Canned Dolmas
The Sweetest Occasion’s Blackberry Cucumber Caprese Salad
Bon Appetit’s Strawberry and Watercress Salad
Bon Appetit's Pasta with Ramp Pesto and Guanciale
Half-Baked Harvest’s Roasted Mixed Potatoes with Spring Herbs & Burrata
From Jerusalem, Ottolenghi’s Lamb Meatballs with Barberries, Yogurt & Herbs
Saveur’s Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie