Recently I had the opportunity to go foraging for ramps. I have wanted to do this for years, but the fleeting season always got away from me. Not this year! I was really excited to finally find these delectable onion, garlic bulbs to harvest.
My friend Jonathan and I got an early start leaving Atlanta at 4:30 am to our destination in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The scenery was amazing and rejuvenating. After 2.5 hours we arrived to a small foot path where we began our trek. After traveling up and down the path we finally arrived to a hillside where we would start harvesting.
Jonathan gave me a quick demo of what to look for and how to dig up without harming the precious bulbs. Once out of the ground we gave the ramps a quick shake and a good whip to get the moist, fertile soil off.
Then began the real work of scaling up the hillside at a forty-five degree incline while plucking them. Amongst the thick of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we were looking for bright green leaves, picking off any yellow leaves. It was a great experience and I found myself being brought back to my childhood when it was cool to play the dirt.
This experience was surreal, I was finding my own produce out in nature. If Jonathan and I weren’t out here, these delectable goodies would not be able to enjoyed by our family, friends and fellow patrons. I was proud to do the leg work for them.
The return hike with bags full of ramps along that foot path was much more daunting, and seemed like we were scaling huge mountain. After making it back to his truck we distributed our finds amongst several large coolers, wrapping the ramps in towels to prevent them from sitting in icy water.
It was neat to know that I got to be part of the supply chain to provide fresh, local produce. I also got a glimpse of the hard work involved to do so, and have a greater sense of gratitude for our farmers, producers, and foragers. The respect for the farms, earth, and the community that they offer each day is something that should not go unseen and should be given praise. One of the reasons I enjoy our local markets is getting to know the face behind where my food comes from.
The trip had me inspired to highlight these bulbs and I began sounding like Bubba from Forrest Gump in my brainstorming, but instead of shrimp my mind was on ramps...Honey roasted ramps, pickled ramps, sautéed greens, ramp pesto, ramps in frittata, grilled ramps, and you get the point... For a chef you can't ask for better way to get motivated. I got to take my experience of ramp harvesting and share that joy through my food for others to enjoy.
Spicy Pickled Ramps Recipe
Since the season is short, pick up ramps from the farmers market this week to make this recipe. Jonathan of Abundant Harvest Gardens sells them at FARM - Farmer's Atlanta Road Market on Tuesday and Peachtree Road on Saturday.
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- 1 gallon Water
- 2 lb. Ramps
Trim ramps, cutting the green leaves off and reserve for another use (great sautéed with carrots and made into a pesto). Once bulbs are cleaned put a large pot on stove add salt and bring to a boil. Begin to blanch ramps for about thirty seconds. Remove from water, shocking in ice bath to stop the cooking. Once the ramps are cold through, pat dry, and place into pickling jars. Be sure not to overload jar with ramps.
For Pickling Brine
- 2 cups Champagne Vinegar
- 1 cup Water
- 1 cup Cane Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Sea Salt
- 1 Tbsp Szechuan Peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp Coriander
- 1 each Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Tbsp Mustard Seeds
- 1 Tbsp Crushed Red Chili Flake
- 1 Tsp Ground Turmeric
Combine water, sugar, salt, vinegar in a pot bring to a boil. Once liquid is at a boil add spices and bring down to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Now pour hot brine over the prepared ramps to cover. Place lids on top, cool, then refrigerate. You can also preserve to eat year-round.
Enjoy with omelettes, frittatas, roasted chicken or duck, cured meats and cheeses.