Creative Sustenance

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

Filtering by Tag: ramps

more ramps - pizzas

It probably goes without saying that during ramp season we use them in a lot of our cooking. Basically anywhere we might normally use onions, leeks or shallots as ingredients, and then in a few things that feature ramps specifically.

Many of the ramps we harvested this week boasted really beautiful, large bulbs, some as large as my thumb.

Had some of the crew over last night to welcome our friend Pat back from his short vacation. We made pizzas, had some wine and beer, and hung out around the fire for a while. The pizzas all featured ramps that I harvested the day before. 

I made three different pizzas, but each was highlighted with diced ramp bulbs and leaves. In the image above, from left to right, we have almost-ready for the oven: 1) tomatoes, ramps and cheddar cheese, 2) roasted red peppers, pickled artichokes, kalamata olives, ramps, 3) sliced baby red potatoes, mushrooms, ramps (I added mozzarella cheese to the final two pizzas after taking the picture).

Pretty pickled ramps for tonight's Foodie Potluck

I seem to be saying this a lot lately but I am just flabbergasted that it has been nine full days since I las updated the blog. Seems like just three or four days ago. How can these days be going by so quickly?! I suppose it's because I've been generally going full bore from early morning until bed time lately, trying to get as many tasks accomplished in the yard and house before I start work at the new restaurant that will be opening soon in town (more to come on that).

Our Foodie Potluck gang is meeting tonight and this month's theme is Earth Day. A few folks expressed interest in the pickled ramps I posted last week so yesterday I pickled a bunch that I had harvested earlier in the day to bring to tonight's potluck.

Kim holding a couple nice bunches of cleaned and trimmed ramps about to be pickled.

Ramps pickled according to the Curried Pickled Ramp recipe I shared last week. I love the color.

I decided to pickle the entire ramp with this one, thinking it might look pretty cool with the leaves still attached (the leaves taste great pickled too). I was right, they look funky and colorful. We'll see how they go over with the group tonight.
Note: I actually do a lot more posting of recipes, images and other info on facebook than I do on the blog, simply because it's so much easier to quickly load a few photos and write a few lines on facebook than it is on the blog. I am, for the most part, sticking fairly well to my new year's resolution to update the blogsite more regularly and frequently, but if you care to see more of this sort of thing (albeit in a "short-hand" version), you ought to friend me on facebook.

Jeez, another pickled ramp recipe?

Ramps do appear to be this year's trendy food. There also seem to be a lot of pickled ramp recipes floating about lately. Allow me to add my own tried and true ramp pickling recipe to the mix. It's one that I really like to use with ramps especially, because I think the end product is a little unusual. The ramps look cool when you plate them and their flavor is a bit exotic. 

One of the fun things about pickling is that it's such a simple process, but it also allows plenty of room to play with ingredients to create something all your own. I have a few different pickling recipes and two that I specifically use with ramps: one is a recipe I use for making ramps destined to be Bloody Mary or Martini garnishes, and the other is for ramps to be eaten as part of a meal. This is my recipe for the latter; I call it Curried Pickled Ramps.

Ingredients to make 1 pint of Curried Pickled Ramps:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbl honey
  • 2 tbl pickling spice *
  • 1 tbl Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 heaping tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 heaping tsp smoked salt *
  • pinky finger-sized piece of raw, peeled ginger
  • couple of small Thai peppers (I used dried Thai peppers with today's batch)
  • enough ramps to fill a wide mouth mason pint jar. maybe 1 1/2 lb bunch, cut at the stem so that they fit into the jar vertically

Pickling ingredients ready to go.

1. Wash and sterilize one or two wide mouth mason jars, their lids and bands. Sterilize by setting them in a pot of water to cover and bring it to a boil. After they've boiled for a few minutes set them out on a clean towel to dry.

2. Boil enough water to immerse the ramps in and set up another bowl with cold water and ice cubes. As soon as the water is boiling put the ramps in for about 30 seconds (it's a mighty quick bath to soften them up). As soon as that 30 seconds is up pull them out of the boiling water with a set of salad tongs and plunge them into the ice bath. Let them sit in the ice water until you're finished with the pickling solution.

3. Add the vinegar and all of the other ingredients except for the ginger and Thai peppers to a pot and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt, and mixing everything else real well. Let it boil (keep stirring) for a minute or two. 

4. Remove the ramps from the ice bath and stuff them bulb end down into the jar. Place the piece of ginger and the Thai peppers into the jar with the ramps (I place them on the outside edge so they are visible, for no other reason than because I like the way it looks). If the ramps are taller than the height of the jar you can take a scissors and cut them down while they're still in the jar, or bend them into the jar.

5. Pour the hot pickling solution into a Pyrex measuring pitcher (I use a 2-cup pitcher) so that it's easier and less messy pouring the solution into the mason jar. Pour the pickling solution into the jar of ramps, separating them a bit with a butter knife as you slowly pour so that the seeds and spices mix in well amongst the ramps. 

6. Wipe the edge of the jar with a clean towel or wash-cloth and seal with the lid and band. That's it! Now let them sit for at least a day to soak up all that good pickling flavor and color. Most refrigerator style pickling recipes say that you ought to use them up within a week or so, and that's probably worthwhile advice, but I've eaten refrigerator pickles (ramps, cukes, tomatoes, squash, radishes, etc) that have been in my fridge for months and they've always been good. But that's me. 

* A word on pickling spice: You can get ready-made pickling spice almost anywhere, or you can make it yourself. There are any number of easily found recipes for it and it is kind of cool to tailor make your own pickling spice. I have come to like a pre-made pickling spice I get from a small Amish country store in north-central Wisconsin. It contains mustard seed, allspice, coriander, cassia, ginger, peppers, cloves, bay leaves and a few other spices. It's got a richer, more clovey, liqueur-like aroma, to my nose, than other pickling spices I've tried.

* I normally don't use smoked salt like I did with this particular batch, but I acquired a jar of wickedly strong smoked salt from my friend Dixie a few weeks ago and have been using it where the opportunity seems appropriate. I only put a teaspoon of it into this mix but didn't really notice it in the final product. So, I think with the next batch I may up that amount to a full tablespoon and see what happens.

These Curried Pickled Ramps are delicious, if I do say so myself. They make a fantastic garnish or a side vegetable all by themselves (as you see in the photo of today's lunch). I've also used them to great effect in sandwiches. They have a great Middle Eastern flavor from the curry, and they look beautiful, with the turmeric and curry turning them to a bright neon-y yellow.

Curried Pickled Ramps...mighty good eating.

After I pickled the bulbs and stalks I had a lot of ramp leaves left over. So, I decided to pickle some of those as well. This time I used the same pickling recipe but left out the turmeric, curry, ginger and smoked salt. I didn't blanch the leaves either, but rather stacked several upon one another and then rolled them into three separate, tight little bundles (see images). I stuffed the bundles into the mason jar and poured the hot pickling solution over them, sealed it up and placed it in the fridge. I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet, but I'm thinking that they will probably be great on sandwiches, chopped up in a salad, as part of a rice or pasta dish, wrapped around some cheese, or any number of other possibilities. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Two images above: rolling ramp leaves before pickling.

Pickled ramp leaves and Curried Pickled Ramps.

After that jar of pickled ramp leaves I still had plenty of them left over, so I made a couple jars of pesto with them, following the recipe for ramp pesto I posted a couple weeks ago. 

Two jars of ramp leaf pesto. Gave one to friend Kim Geiser.

Finally, I had maybe a dozen leaves left and, not wanting to waste anything, I tore them up and took them out to the ducks to see if they'd eat them. The ducks didn't seem very interested in the ramp leaves, only nibbling at a few. But later when I checked on them I noticed that there were no ramp leaves on the floor of the enclosure, so maybe they enjoyed them after all.

Ramp pesto

My Dad phoned me yesterday while he was out on one of his local exploring mini-expeditions. "I found a place covered with wild onions. They're all over." "Already?" I replied. "It's little early yet." I have my spots that I start checking around this time of year and thus far no ramps have made an appearance. 

"Where are you?" I asked. He told me and I said, "Well, why don't you come get me and we'll have a look?" He was a bit further inland than where I begin looking for the dagger-shaped leaves around this time of year, enough so that the cool Lake Michigan temperatures weren't a factor in slowing spring growth like they are closer to the lake. 

I retrieved a couple of bags, my old digging knife and a camera and waited for my Dad to show up. Upon arriving at the place he had found I had to admit that he had indeed come upon a good location for spring ramps ("wild onions" to Dad). Although they were still relatively small in size they were growing thickly, with little bunches more or less uniformly covering a pretty large expanse of ground. 

Young ramps bursting through the earth in early spring.

I was excited and harvested just a couple of handfuls-worth, while planning to return to the spot in another week or two.

Just-harvested ramps. It's not cool to harvest too much. Be frugal and leave more than you take.

Ramps, also known as wild leeks or wild onions, are one of the first wild edibles a lot of folks learn to identify and harvest. That may be because they are also one of the first edibles to make an appearance each spring. They are hard to mistake for anything else once you've harvested them yourself. They also seem to have become much more popular (trendy might be a better word) with chefs in recent years, and you'll find them on menus in a number of noteworthy restaurants.

Ramps have an intense flavor that's something of a marriage of green onion and garlic, and you can use them just about any way you might use either or both of those vegetable herbs. When the morels begin to appear a plate of grilled morel mushrooms and ramps, washed down with a nice ale, is practically tradition.

Ramps after cleaning, beautiful and colorful.

This morning I decided to make a pesto from the bunch I dug up yesterday. I'll share the recipe here, but bear in mind that the ingredient amounts are entirely arbitrary. Pesto is one of those things that can be made any number of ways with any number of ingredients and any number of mutable measurements.  

Ramp & Arugula Pesto


  • Ramps, one large handful
  • Arugula, 3/4 cup
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2+ cup
  • Almonds, 1/2 cup, toasted
  • Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, 1 cup, shaved
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, just a couple turns of the pepper mill

Ramp pesto ingredients, romaine and baby spinach I added later not shown.

1. Toast the almonds in an oven at 400° for around 10 minutes. They smell oh-so-good! Roughly chop them up and pour into your food processor. Give it a few pulses to chop them even more.

2. Roughly chop the ramps, leaves and all. Add the chopped ramps, arugula, oil, cheese, salt and pepper to the processor. Pulse it until everything is well blended. You may want to add more oil until it gets to a consistency you like.

Ramp & arugula pesto, ready to rock your taste buds.

That's pretty well it. Easy-peasy. But now here is where the adaptable nature of pesto comes in handy. I found that my initial recipe was far too pungent. I knew that Kim would find it too spicy and "hot" for her taste. So I grabbed a handful of baby spinach and three big leaves of romaine lettuce, tossed them into the processor and pulsed it to blend everything together. Perfect! The spinach and romaine mellowed it out quite nicely. The finished pesto looked fantastic, a beautiful vibrant green, and it had a spicy freshness that made spring seem even more spring-y.

Eager to use the ramp pesto right away, I whipped up a huge omelet with a row of canned diced tomatoes and a strip of the pesto spooned over them before folding the omelet over on itself. I cut the fat egg pie in half and plated one half for Kim and the other for me. It was incredible. I am not making this up--go ahead and ask her--Kim actually licked her plate clean. That's how good it was.

The pesto will stay fresh in your fridge for a month or so, if it lasts that long before you eat it all!

After we finished breakfast I jarred the remaining pesto into an empty gelato container and thought, "I would totally buy this if it was on a store shelf. Someone should make this stuff to sell." Someone like me! (Let me know if you would like a jar.)

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