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For a change, Mountain Sweet Berry Farm had enough wild ramps to go around this weekend.
Ramps–also known as Allium tricoccum or wild leeks–are one of the most pungent plants known to humankind. They’re found wild in the forest beginning in early April, sometimes extending into early May. So appealing are they to some people, that Rapunzel’s mom traded her for a fistful of them, resulting in the golden-haired beauty being locked in a tower.
Imagine for a moment the pungent smell that leaps up from this bunch of ramps. It almost burns your nostrils.
In the last few years, ramps have caused a sensation as soon as they arrived in the Union Square Greenmarket, and this year was no exception. Their most notorious purveyor is Mountain Sweet Berry Farm from Roscoe, New York, a small hamlet in the verdant Catskill Mountains. The first couple of days the ramps appeared at the stand, they sold out before 9 a.m.
This weekend was different, though. A cold wind from the East and diving temperatures kept the hordes away from the market in the morning, and heaps of beautiful ramps were in evidence, available for $3 per bunch. I bought two bunches, and on my way home by bike, I could smell the intense odor wafting up from my cloth grocery bag, overwhelming the city’s other smells.
Once home, I set about making an all-ramp dinner for a number of dinner guests that evening. Here are the four things I did with my ramps.
Next: Four things to do with ramps
1. I’d bought a free-range chicken at the Abingdon Square Green from Hoosick River Poultry Farm. I massaged it with olive oil, then sprinkled it inside and out with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I took one entire bunch, and after carefully washing it (most of the cleaning has already been done before you buy the ramps), chopped it very coarsely and stuffed the bird with it. I baked it in a moderate oven for an hour and 15 minutes.
2. I took the white part of one leek, chopped it up very fine, and soaked it in one-quarter cup of olive oil for an hour with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a squirt of Dijon mustard. After an hour, I added a little maple syrup, and whisked in a combo of lime juice and white vinegar to make a thick dressing. I tossed in about a half-teaspoon of finely chopped ramp leaves to give the intensely yellow vinaigrette a little contrasting color.
3. I took three broad ramp leaves and made a julienne. The I boiled a couple of big Yukon gold potatoes, jackets removed. When they were tender, I drained them, threw in some milk and butter, sprinkled the top with the ramps, them mashed the potatoes with a hand masher. Afterwards, I whipped them with a wooden spoon, being careful to leave them slightly lumpy.
4. The rest of the ramps–totaling the better part of one bunch–I pushed into a jar of kosher pickle brine that I’d already eaten the gherkins out of, being careful to screw the lid very tight. Yes, you could preserve the extra ramps by freezing, too, but no one has invented a container dependable enough to keep the smell from permeating everything in your freezer. In the future, I can use the pickled ramps roughly chopped in salads, or minced fine in salad dressings.