Every year, when spring rolls around, I hear about how it is ramps season. And somehow, they seem to never make their way to the Bay Area. At my local farmer’s market (a pretty great one at that), when I asked about ramps, the pleasant but uninformed fellow replied, “nope, we don’t have those but we have rapini!”. Hmmm.
A few weeks ago at the Magnolia Gastropub, they had pickled ramps as part of their house-made pickles offering. I was blown away at their intense garlic-onion flavor, crunchy bulbs crossed with kim chee-like leaves. I knew right then, that if I could grow ramps in my backyard, I’d be a happy, happy man.
I managed to find some ramps this weekend at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market at their indoor mushroom store (Far West Fungi) of all places. To counter my near-hysterical excitement, one of their clerks quipped, “thought you’d never find these here, huh?”. Um, right.
Being a ramps virgin and all, I only bought one bunch but put every bit of the plant to good use. A smallish batch of pickled ramps (this recipe utilizing chili pepper mixtures, Japanese togarashi and Korean kochukaru, cribbed from Momofuku’s David Chang) was applied to most of the bulbs and the leaves. I reserved some of the better looking leaves to chop up to add to some smashed Yukon Gold creamer mini-potatoes for dinner.
The verdict? Fresh ramps will fragrantize your fridge something fierce. Cleaning and prepping them fills your immediate area with a pungency that is mouth-watering. The leaves in the potatoes added just enough earthy garlic flavor – the leaves are not nearly as strong as the bulbs. And the pickles? I will have to wait for a few days but if they are anything like the rendition that Magnolia had, they will disappear quickly. Now, about growing some of my own….