Being entirely new to both the world of hiking and the world of ramps, I wasn’t sure what to expect when Z, Benton, Maggie and I set out on our mission to forage this fleeting wild onion. We packed a picnic of fresh veggies and farmers-market bread, grabbed a chilled bottle of white and set out to find the ramps that grow at their own will throughout the fertile land of Foxhollow Farm. When we made these plans I had envisioned wandering through the woods and turning a corner, a valley of onions appearing before us in neat little rows, smiling toward the sky. As we made our way down the trail Maggie pointed out several signs confirming that spring was finally – finally! – here. Miniature white flowers blooming, their petals no larger than a beetle, small wild greens set apart by varied shades of green. “There’s a ramp!” she said, gesturing toward a sprouting of kelly-green leaves, bunched in a way that reminded me of the base of a tulip. It sat alone and bright, looking quite happy with it’s independence and freedom. The ramps began to pop up more frequently as we walked deeper into the woods, truly wild and of their own will. We came upon a steep slope adjacent to a beautiful babbling creek and were presented with the valley I had dreamed of however completely without uniform. We sat down amongst the ramps, the official first sign of spring, and popped the cork from our wine to drink and toast the new season amongst a field of one of it’s most wonderful and delicious gifts. We cleaned wild ramps and pilled them raw onto our bread. A smear of goat cheese, some peppers and some pea greens made up one of the simplest and most delicious sandwiches I’ve ever experienced. I knew ramps were of onion descent but there is a decidedly garlic undertone to their leaves. They left my mind spinning, visions of recipes and potential pairings flying through my head. Ramp pesto over pasta; ramp chimichurri ladled on a char-grilled skirt steak; ramps folded in with gently scrambled eggs. Whatever the application, ramps lend a distinctive and refreshing quality to their fellow ingredients and we should take note and appreciate their power as they will not be with us for long. Their life span is but a few short weeks and local restaurants covet them, the first jewels of spring.
We watched the dogs fly through the woods, bounding over the ramps and finally coming to a crashing rest amongst the leafy greens. We dug up a lions-share and set back toward home. This was my first ‘harvest’ experience and I wasn’t anticipating it to be so invigorating, so rewarding and refreshing. I spent the following week sampling the ramps in the aforementioned applications, happy with the depth of flavor this garlicky onion gave to each dish. It was my second go round with ramps with carrot purée and pasta that sealed the deal. Farm fresh carrots are brightening every farmer’s market booth right now, ramps sitting alongside. I hope you’ll take advantage of this wild treasure. It is as farm-fresh as it gets.
|Nick relaxing in a sea of ramps|
Scenes from our ramp hike follow along with my recipe for pasta with ramps and carrot purée.
|Pickles helping me collect the carrots for my purée|
|Ramps blanketing the woods|
|Wild ramps from Foxhollow Farm|
For this recipe, as with most all, I highly recommend prepping and chopping all items before you begin cooking. It makes for a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience! That said…
Clean and peel two bunches of carrots, chopping into one-inch rounds, yielding approximately two cups. Clean and chop seven to ten ramps, white and green parts, yielding one half cup.
Set a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.
Set the carrots in a pan with high-sides and fill with water, until just covered, about one inch deep. Boil the carrots for 12 to 15 minutes until they are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork. Drain the carrots well and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Purée the carrots with one half tsp salt, one quarter tsp freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Set aside.
At this point your pasta water should be at a rolling boil. Add a palm-full of salt and three-quarters of a pound fusilli pasta. I like this particular pasta in this case because the ridges give the carrots and ramps wonderful little hiding spots, resulting in generously coated pasta noodles. Penne pasta will work as well. Cook for 8-10 minutes or as instructed on the box, until al dente. Make sure to reserve one cup of the pasta water before draining.
Wipe out the pan used to cook the carrots and set it over medium-low heat. Add one tbs unsalted butter and one tbs olive oil and warm for one minute. Add the ramps (reserving one tbs of the leafy-green part) to the pan and sauté with the butter and olive oil until fragrant, about one minute. Sprinkle one quarter tsp red pepper flakes over the ramps and toss to combine, allowing the dried spice to sweat and melt into the ramps just slightly. Transfer the carrot purée back to the pot and stir to blend with the ramps and red pepper flakes. Once warm, pour in one half cup heavy cream and one quarter tsp salt and whisk gently until well combined.
You want a thick but slightly thin purée, something that will act as a hearty but silky sauce for the pasta. The water from the pasta is a wonderful and surprisingly flavorful ingredient, filled with starch collected from the noodles. Begin by adding one half cup of the pasta water to the purée. This was enough of a thinning agent for me but feel free to add an additional quarter cup if you feel the sauce needs to be thinned out even more. Taste for seasoning and keep over medium-low heat, stirring often.
Pour the drained pasta over the puree. Before mixing, shave parmesan cheese directly onto the noodles, approximately one half cup. The cheese will begin to melt on the warm pasta – a very wonderful thing! Toss with the sauce and add two tbs freshly chopped parsley for freshness. Plate the pasta, garnish with the reserved ramp greens and serve.
Makes four entree portions, eight to ten as a side dish
- two cups carrots peeled and in one-inch chop
- seven to ten ramps, both white and green parts cleaned and chopped, yielding one half cup
- one half tsp kosher salt
- one quarter tsp freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- one tbs unsalted butter
- one tbs olive oil
- one quarter tsp red pepper flakes
- one half cup heavy whipping cream
- one quarter tsp kosher salt
- one half cup parmesan cheese
- two tbs chopped parsley
- three-quarters of a pound fusilli pasta
- one cup reserved pasta water
- reserved leafy greens from ramps for garnish