By Abigail Fleming
If you aren’t really sure what all the rage is about ramps, then read on! Until I read Chef William Dissen’s article in our April issue, I wasn’t even aware of what ramps were, much less that they’re a key ingredient. Ramps are a spring root vegetables that grow from South Carolina all the way up to Canada, and their bulbs are similar in appearance to that of a scallion. They have a short growing season, but their unique flavor can trump a leek or scallion’s contribution to a dish any day.
At first, this pungent, sweet onion sent me scurrying for my Benadryl, as I have an unfortunate garlic allergy. But, my gently persistent vegetarian friend convinced me that the beautiful, broad leaves and plump bulb of the ramp smell of garlic since they belong to the same lily family. Crossing my fingers, we tried the leaves in a light potato soup and added the chopped bulb to homemade salsa.
I was stunned by the boldness of the taste, and pleasantly surprised that the other ingredients weren’t masked by the ramps. The garlicky flavor that I’ve been missing for so long was extremely present, and I can’t wait to try out a few more ramp presentations. We have recipes in our April issue, online, and Jacques Larson of Wild Olive Restaurant on Johns Island, SC, provided us with a phenomenal pasta dish that celebrates the powerful flavor of ramps. Try it out!
Bucatini with Ramps and Pangrattato
from Chef Jacques Larson of Wild Olive Restaurant, Johns Island, SC