I love onion-y ramps—whether paired with morel mushrooms, sautéed or grilled in pasta, or pickled—and one my favorite activities in the spring is to go foraging for them.
On May 13th, the day of my book launch (Eating Wildly), I went into the woods with some dear forager friends and collected ramps from our favorite area north of the city. Also known as spring onions, wild garlic, and wild leek, Allium tricoccum are in the onion family and native to the eastern part of the U.S. (and up through Canada).
Note: Ramps are slow-growing—like many bulb-y plants, they propagate by doubling underground—so it’s best to practice sustainable foraging. Try to pick mainly the leaves, and if a patch is small, consider leaving it alone to propagate for future years. If you need the bulbs, cut above the root line—allowing roots to remain in the earth.
In the Kitchen
After consulting several other wild food enthusiasts, I decided that a ramps compound butter—essentially mixing unsalted butter with ramps—would capture their pure rampy flavor best, and allow me to extend the culinary bounty into future seasons. I had an idea that I wanted to give some to friends, including this sandwich impressario, to use for their culinary adventures, and to use in this feature with Edible Manhattan.
While most compound butters utilize herbs like thyme or rosemary, lemon zest, and salt and pepper—all ingredients that I love—I wanted a butter that would show-case the pure unadulterated flavor of the ramps. For many of my friends, this would be their first sampling of the wild allium, and I wanted to be a bit of a purist.
To keep the brightness of the color, my chef friend Arlene Jacobs suggested avoiding salt, which might dull the intensity of the green. So I used an unsalted butter (I prefer grass-fed, if you can find it) and refrained from adding any other herbs and spices.
4 oz ramps (trimmed of their roots, which hopefully you left in the ground)
8 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Blanch ramps in a pot of boiling water, 2-3 minutes. Quickly drain in a colander. Shock the ramps in ice water or under a cold-running tap, then dry with clean towels. Mince by hand or in a food-processor, and put aside.
- Cut up butter into a bowl and add ramps by hand, or place into a food-processor, add ramps, and pulse 4-5 times. Make sure ramps are mixed thoroughly throughout the butter.
- Roll into either a large log or two smaller ones on parchment paper.
- Place into freezer bags & store in freezer.
While some may prefer using a few of the more standard ingredients, my first taste of this brightly green ramp butter was so intensely oniony that I felt like I was eating a bit of heaven. (I even had a bit of ramps left over, which I turned into an extra virgin olive oil ramp infusion, pictured in the background).
I housed the gift ramp butter in these cute honey pot jars, and stored the rest of the logs in the freezer, where they should keep indefinitely, or at least until my upcoming wild foods event this fall (exact date & details TBA).