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Ramps & Asparagus Soup

 Ramps — “allium tricoccum” – a member of the onion family (sometimes called wild leeks)

 — are available for only a few weeks in Spring. If you live anywhere near woods in the Northeast U.S.,  Canada or as far down as North Carolina — you might try foraging for them, or if not, hopefully you have a farmer’s market near you that carries them. – typically at obscenely high prices.
I was lucky enough to get some for the second year in a row from my neighbor Insung, who has a friend who forages for them in New York’s Catskills Mountains.
Both the broad leaves and the bulbs can be eaten and they’ve got a distinctly pungent taste – somewhere between an onion and garlic. In the photo below, you see the leafy ramps on the left, but they’re missing the bulbous part. That’s because my friend’s friend picked them, leaving the bulbs in the ground in order to allow for more growth for next year. In many areas, ramp mania has gotten so out of control, that local woods have been decimated of the ramps there. So be thoughtful and judicious if you decide to hunt and bring some home.
For this soup, I used a few scallions and asparagus too, adding one potato to help thicken it.
Chop everything into smallish pieces, including the potato.
After I cut off the fibrous ends of the asparagus, I boiled them in some water, to enrich the soup with the vegetable stock. You can make this completely vegetarian, but I added some chicken broth.
There are plenty of other ways to enjoy ramps too, including this ramps pesto I posted a couple of years ago.
They also pair beautifully with eggs, as I found out when making a frittata with mushrooms, ricotta cheese and ramps.

And I loved them on a flatbread too, with mozzarella, ricotta cheese and baby portabello mushrooms. Have you tried ramps yet? What are some of the ways you’ve enjoyed them?

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Ramps and Asparagus Soup
2 T. olive oil
a few scallions, sliced
1 bunch of ramps, sliced
a bunch of asparagus, roughly sliced
one medium potato, cut into small chunks
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
a large handful of fresh Italian parsley
salt, pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
chives or croutons to sprinkle on top
Saute the scallions, asparagus, and ramps in the olive oil until softened. Add the potato chunks and the rest of the ingredients except the parsley and the cream. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook for 15 –20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Put everything in the blender and puree. (Be careful to cover the lid with a dishtowel or it may splatter.) Add the parsley and whir for a few more seconds. Add heavy cream if desired. Garnish with drops of cream and a sprinkle of chives on top .

Ramps Pesto

 Well, after reading about ramps for years, and never tasting them, I’m finally on the ramps bandwagon. If you’ve never eaten them, your time is running short this year because the season is almost over. If you’re lucky you’ll live near a farmer’s market that sells them. But if you’re even luckier, you’ll have a friend who gives you some, like the ones I got from my neighbor Insung, who got hers from a friend who picked them in New York’s Catskills Mountains. They grow wild in many places across the Eastern U.S. and Canada, from Nova Scotia to the the American South, including Richwood, West Virginia, a town that just celebrated its 76th annual Ramp Feed, or Feast of the Rampsome, as the locals call it. 

“Allium tricoccum,” the botanic name of ramps, already tells you something – that it’s in the onion family and they have a garlicky, oniony flavor. In the 1987 movie Matewan, when an Italian woman receives some ramps to flavor her stew from an Appalachian woman in West Virginia, she smells them and declares “aglio!” (garlic).  The strong smell permeates everything – including the refrigerator, so make sure you wrap them well or put them in a container.
For my bounty, I decided to make a ramp pesto, and I added in some spinach to stretch it a little further. You could also add arugula or nothing extra at all. But the added spinach helped intensify the green color. To aid in keeping the color green, I also first blanched the ramps in boiling water for a couple of minutes.
It’s great merely smeared on some toast.
Or spread a swath of ramps pesto on a plate with grilled fish, like the one below. This was a delicious dish I ate recently at Ed’s Chowder House in New York City, served with fava beans and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms.
Or just add a few minced ramps to your potato salad this weekend to give it a really nice “bite.” Click here for my potato salad recipe.
Happy Memorial Day!

Ramps Pesto
printable recipe here

1 bunch ramps (about 20 stalks)
1 small bunch spinach (about 1/2 cup packed hard)
1 cup toasted walnuts
2/3 cup olive oil
sea salt, white pepper to taste
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Blanch the ramps and dry them on paper towels.  (optional, but the color will stay brighter if you do this step.) Put
everything except parmesan cheese in a food processor and keep pulsing
until you have a creamy mixture. Add more olive oil if needed to make it looser. Mix in
the cheese later if you’re planning to freeze, otherwise, stir in the cheese and serve – over pasta, on bread toasts, with grilled fish or chicken.