Folks in the Northeast get very excited when the first edibles start to sprout. Ramps beat out Asparagus by a good couple of weeks, so the near hysteria about them can sometimes seem little over-the-top. Wild leeks that grow in the moist soil of forest floors, they usually start to appear in early May. The above picture was taken near my friends Ansell’s country house. A short 15 minutes walk away from his place is a stream surrounded by forest where we hit the ramp jackpot.
Historically my favorite way of preparing ramps is to pickle them and serve them with a cheese course. As an added bonus the pickling juice can be used in a ramped-up martini ( 2 oz Gin, 3/4 oz dry vermouth, 1/4 oz pickled ramp brine).
Ramps almost make a mean Pesto. If you search the internet you will find dozens of ingenious ways to use this first seasonal treat. My new favorite way of cooking Ramps is to give them the onion ring treatment. Dredging them in flour makes them crispy so I prefer it to making a batter, but both are delicious.
This is a particularly good recipe to make now when Ramps are nearly over and much bigger.
Crunchy Buttermilk Fried Ramps
Trim, wash and dry 1 pound of Ramps, removing all the greens (reserve for another purpose).
In a medium size bowl pour in 1 1/2 cups of Buttermilk and add the prepared Ramps.Let them soak for about 10 minutes, in the meantime in another medium bowl mix together: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
Dredge the soaked Ramps in the flour a few at a time being carefulness to get the flour too wet or it will clump up and you’ll need to make more.Preheat non-flavored oil like Safflower, organic Canola or Sunflower in a cast iron skillet. The oil should be about an inch deep. Heat until hot, but not smoking (325 F). Cook the prepared ramps until well browned on each side — 2 to 3 minutes per side. When browned remove ramps to paper towel lined surface. Place cooked Ramps on a serving plate, garnished with hot sauce, Maldon salt and fresh lemon wedges. I used my friend Michael’s home-made Habanero carrot hot sauce but Tabasco is a fine substitute.