Monday, April 27, 2009

Ramps, Wild Leeks

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.

Ramp Pesto

3 handfuls of cleaned leeks and their leaves
1 handful of pine nuts
Olive oil
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


  1. Oh my gosh, this all sounds yummy. I'm going to look for ramps. Not here on the property, but in wetter areas.

  2. Wow, that's impressive, Matt! I would think 10 lbs would be a lot of ramps. I really like what you did with them, too. Yum.


  3. Hi - thanks for the tips. I just found some Ramps (what I'm pretty sure are Ramps) near the Hudson River - stream running down to river, as I looked for Morels. My hesitation is, that in reading on Ramps, they describe the stems as "purple" with "semi-purple bulbs" etc. The Ramps I found look just like your photo above - no purple at all and all white stems. Is this the case? I researched a lot and know for sure these are not False Hellebore. But are they Ramps? Again, they have all the markings of what I see in many photos - but lack the purple. Have you found this to be the case?

  4. I found that the outer layer had some purple but it is not necessarily pronounced. I think if it has leaves that look like ramps and smells like an onion you're safe. There is a chance you may have a wild onion. In Vermont there is a town and river with the name "Winooski" which means "this is where the wild onions grow" in Abenaki and it is because there is some wild onion that grows all over the place here.