Ramps are part of the lily family, a group of plants that includes well-known foods such as leeks and garlic. Their season is short and you're most likely to find them at your local farmers market early in spring. You don't have to cook ramps -- raw ramps have a distinctive and earthy taste that pairs excellently with sea salt and butter -- but it is much more common and popular to eat them cooked. Try them roasted, parboiled, sautéed, braised and even puréed to provide your family an easy-to-love flavor you're not likely to find any other time of year.
Ramps with Pasta
Saute your ramps in olive oil and garlic, then toss them with fettuccine or cheese gnocchi. Add a side of garlic bread or a small salad with creamy dressing, such as a balsamic or Parmesan with zesty Italian seasoning, to bring out all the flavors. Or, use ramps to make a pesto. Blend ramps with olive oil, basil, pine nuts, lemon zest and salt. Toss the mixture with a long pasta, such as angel hair, and top it with a piece of mild fish, such as tilapia.
Ramps with Vegetables
Put a few potatoes on to roast and season them well. When they have about 10 more minutes to cook, add the ramps. The potatoes will take on the ramps' garlic and onion flavor. Or, toss the ramps with asparagus, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Roast them to make a crispy and nutritious treat. You could also make a salsa with the ramps: chop them into 1/2-inch pieces and add sliced cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend the mixture well and serve it with any meat or fish.
You can eat every bit of ramps raw, bulbs and all. Tear the leaves into small pieces and mix them with fresh seasonal veggies and a creamy dressing to make a salad. A side of garlic bread sprinkled with shredded cheese will complete this delicious but surprisingly nutritious meal. Or, clean the ramps and chop off the bulbs. Use them for dipping -- a honey-garlic, ranch or lemon-butter sauce will help keep the ramps' flavor from being masked. The leftover leaves can be used for garnishes, especially if your main dish is a little garlicky. Drizzle them with olive oil and enjoy.
Other Meals with Ramps
Toss some shallots with butter and ramps in a frying pan and let them simmer for a few minutes, then serve the mixture atop a toasted, buttery ciabatta roll. Or, stuff sautéed ramps and asparagus into a butterflied chicken breast and serve with garlic mashed potatoes. You could also make ramp soup: use chicken broth and add a healthy dose of sea salt and garlic powder. Add ramp bulbs and tiny chicken chunks along with fresh vegetable pieces. Save the ramp leaves for dipping into the soup.
Kate Bradley began writing professionally in 2007. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a minor in German from Berry College in Rome, Ga; TEFL/TESOL certification from ITC International in Prague; and a Master of Arts in integrated global communication from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.