During an unseasonably sunny and 85 degree “spring” day in April, I made my way out of the city to harvest some ramps, or wild leeks. These little leeks pop up through leaves and twigs all across Appalachia, from South Carolina up to Ottawa and Quebec. They create an island of green amidst a land of brown leaves.
Ramps are tasty and perhaps best described as a mild leek with garlic undertones. They have large, captivating green leaves and a small white and purple bulb.
We harvested small amounts from each cluster and somehow ended up with about ten pounds of leeks. Ramps are only available for a couple weeks so we were more than happy to put up a bunch in early spring. After a few hours in the kitchen, we had them all cleaned, trimmed and either pickled or ground into a pesto. With a careful cleaning and cooking, the wild leeks are safe for my unreliable stomach.
Fresh-Pickled Ramps (makes two pints)
100 small/medium ramps (about two handfuls), cleaned and trimmed down to one inch of leaf
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. peppercorns
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (use less if not a spicy fan)
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds (substitute a couple pinches of ground coriander if needed)
1 tbsp. salt (optional if you want them to be just sweet and tangy)
1) Boil jars and tops in water for 10 minutes to sterilize jars
2) Blanch ramps in boiling water for 2 minutes. Move immediately to ice cold water to “shock” them
3) Bring cider vinegar, honey and seasonings to a simmer
4) Place leeks in jars, top with pickling mixture and seal jars. Jars do not need to “pop” or seal. Store in fridge for up to a month.
3 handfuls of cleaned leeks and their leaves
1 handful of pine nuts
Salt and pepper
1) Blend the leeks with olive oil until it becomes a paste-like texture
2) Add salt and pepper to taste
3) Add the pine nuts and blend briefly
4) Freeze in clean jars or store in fridge for a couple weeks