Monday, March 9, 2009

Ramping It Up

Ramps (aka "wild leeks") are only available fresh from March until June. Ramps have a small white bulb that grows into a tall, flat green leaf with a purple streak. They taste like a mild combination of garlic and onion.

Ramps are said to be good sources for iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and contain sulfur compounds that may lower the risk of cardio-vascular disease and help stabilize blood sugar (but you'd probably have to eat 10 lbs. a day for these benefits to kick in.)

When you use them, treat them like a young green onion. Cut off the stem end and slip the first skin off of them.

Bon Appetit says they are versatile -- brush whole ramps with olive oil and grill them. Simmer whole ones until they're soft, pat them dry, let them cool and drizzle with a vinaigrette. Or leave out the vinaigrette, chop them and add them to chicken broth and mashed potatoes for soup. Go Asian and saute chopped ramps with sesame oil, ginger and soy sauce, then sprinkle them with toasted sesame seeds. For an elegant breakfast dish, saute chopped ramps in butter, add beaten eggs and scramble. Serve on toasted English muffin halves.

I once found ramps at the local Farmers Market and bought some. "The Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver had been raving about them in one of his books. I was expecting a Really Big garlic-onion flavor and was disappointed at the rather delicate taste that I did get. But they were good in scrambled eggs. Incidentally, he's called "The Naked Chef" because he doesn't like overly-sauced foods. Not because he cooks au natural. (Or so he says.)

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