Ramps (or wild leeks) arrive in abundance first-thing in the spring throughout the midwest. They have a very strong garlicy flavor when eaten raw, and a sublime sweetness when roasted or sauteed.
I put them on everything this time of year. The bulbs will grow throughout the season, but the leaves get stringy and bitter.
My favorite way to prepare and preserve the first ramps of spring is to use the whole plant (bulbs, stems and leaves, minus the roots) and chop it up into a very strong and easy to use pesto. This can be used like a typical basil pesto and has a very strong garlicy flavor that borders on spicy. Spread it on crackers with cheese, veggies, noodles or anything else. When cooked it takes on a uniquely sublime sweetness, throw it into some eggs, a marinade or a soup. This brilliantly colored spread will keep tightly lidded in the fridge for weeks and won’t even turn brown! Freeze any extra to preserve the bounty for an easy to use year-round addition to any meal.
For the recipe:
As many ramps as you can find, beg, borrow or steal, cleaned and chopped*.
*(following quantities are roughly based on 1 pound of ramps)
1/4 cup of good olive oil
juice of one lemon with a lot of the zest included (I just throw in a whole Meyers lemon cut into quarters, rind and all)
1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
Other good additions include:
1/2 cup parmesan or other hard cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts (substitute any tree-nut you like)
Whir the whole thing together in a food processor or blender until smooth and fairly homogenous.
Be sure to share some with anyone you’re likely to be kissing in the next day or so!