The Taming of the Ramps

knaeur_ramps_3-31_post.jpg

Ian Knauer


What's the big deal about ramps?

Well, first off, they're pretty delicious in a way that is both familiar and very different from their lily cousins. Nary a combination of garlic, scallion, and leek could ever quite match the wild musk that fills your head when you chomp down on a ramp. If the onion family were a line of perfumes, then the ramp would be Sex Panther by Odeon. Or maybe even BK Flame. Needless to say, pretty powerful stuff.

But that's not all.

Ramps have cleverly made themselves scarce, thereby increasing demand. They have a very short season (only about six weeks in the spring) and they have the reputation for being uncultivable. The limited season situation is true, and seemingly unavoidable. But the theory of cultivability is a nasty rumor spread, no doubt, but those who could benefit from ramp scarcity: money-hungry farmers.

I can't get too upset at farmers and foragers for wanting to bump up their prices, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be this way. You, too, can grow your own ramps. All you'll need are some ramps to get started with and a sugar maple or oak tree close to a wet, swampy area in the Eastern United States. Not too much to ask for, really.

Ramps reproduce two ways, lucky bastards. They flower and go to seed, like most plants. Those seeds then drop and make new plants. But you'll have lots of trouble finding these seeds. Ramps also reproduce by way of bulbs. This is the key to your future ramp garden. When you buy ramps at the farmers' market, make sure they come with the roots.

Before you cook with the ramps you've procured, remove the bottom half-inch of bulb, keeping the roots attached. Store them overnight, covered by room temperature water. The next day, plant them in the damp soil around your eastern oak or maple and then forget about them for a year.

Or, spend the next 11 months dreaming about the ramps and their sacred scent of desire, like I do.

I planted six ramp bulbs two years ago. Last year six ramps popped up in early April. I ate them, leaving the bulbs in the ground. This year, I've found 11 so far. With any luck, I'll have 20 by next year. Now you can do it too, tiger.

Presented by

Ian Knauer is a former Gourmet test kitchen cook, and he wrote extensively for Gourmet and Gourmet.com until the close of the brand in late 2009. More

Ian Knauer joined Gourmet in 2001 and became one the cooks in the Gourmet test kitchens. He wrote extensively for Gourmet and Gourmet.com until the close of the brand in late 2009. He now contributes to several food-related publications, including his own blog, and when not in a kitchen, he is either hunting, fishing, tending his beehives, or foraging for dinner wherever it can be found.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In