Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

Ramp seed capers

Ramps (or wild leeks, as they are often called) have bolted and been going to seed for some time now. Forest floors that several weeks ago were covered with a lush carpet of their elegantly shaped leaves now display a chaotic peppering of skinny stalks topped with green clusters of heart-shaped seed heads. In just a few more weeks those seed heads, now soft and succulent, will crack open to reveal seeds that have hardened into small black BBs.

Ramp seed clusters

But right now those seeds have yet to fully develop, are juicy and crunchy to the bite, and have a much softer though still unmistakable flavor and aroma of garlic and onion. They're also abundant enough to make collecting an easy job. We harvested about a quart's worth in no time at all.

Ramp seeds

Ramp seeds

Developing ramp seeds make an interesting "caper" of sorts, not unlike the homemade capers you might make using nasturtium seeds. One of the more tedious aspects of pickling ramp seeds as capers is removing the little ½-inch stem that the seed head is attached to, if you do in fact choose to remove it at all. The stems are only mildly fibrous and are easy to chew, so I leave them on some of the seeds I pickle, as they don't bother me. But I do snip them off, with scissors, of enough seeds to make at least one or two jars that are stem-free should I wish to use the capers for dishes I might make if we have company.

Ramp seed capers, sans stems

Ingredients: 

  • red wine vinegar
  • water, equal in volume to the vinegar
  • salt, ⅓-½ cup for every 2 cups vinegar
  • sugar,  ½-⅔ cup for every 2 cups vinegar
  • bay leaves, 1 per jar

You can see I'm a little iffy on the amounts of salt and sugar. Adjust to your preference, depending on whether you like it saltier or sweeter. 

1) Rinse the seeds in a few changes of cold water, picking out any chaff, bugs or other undesirable elements. Cut of the stems from the heads if you so desire. Chew a few with and without the stems to help you decide. 

2) Bring the pickling brine ingredients to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.  

3) Fill your jars with the seeds and pour the hot brine over them. Keep a bay leaf in each jar. Seal, date and place in the fridge. Or, if you want to preserve them for a longer period of time outside of the refrigerator you may preserve them in a hot water bath as you would any vegetable.

Use ramp seed capers anyway you normally would with an actual caper. I added a handful to my omelet this morning.

Ramp seed capers

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