The start of spring. Finally! I have written many posts about spring: how it is the perfect time to lose weight, the best time to cleanse your body and home, a time of renewal and rebirth, and a great time to add in more greens to your diet. (Read all these posts here) This year, however, I want to talk about one of my favorite spring foods, that just popped up at my local farmer’s market and is here for a very limited time. It may be one you have no idea what to do with but keep hearing from people that it is amazingly delicious. I am talking about RAMPS.
The first time I ever heard about ramps was on the Food Network and Alex Guarnaschelli. I know from watched Chopped! that she is in love with ramps. In fact, she is quoted in the NY times as saying, “THE hardest thing for me is restraint…I see fresh beans and ramps and I start to quiver.” Since then, I have seen many famous chefs and local eateries use ramps in the spring. However, I have to admit, I never had. So this past Saturday while perusing my local farmer’s market, I decided to pick up a bunch and make them for lunch.
Ramps, also called wild leeks, are incredibly easy to make, but you do need to be delicate with them. They have a slightly pungent, garlicky – onion flavor that once cooked becomes a melt- in -your -mouth sweet, onion delight.
All you need is a bit of high quality olive oil (you want to treat these babies right), some crushed garlic, sea salt and a bit of lemon juice. This is the classic combination, by the way, for sauteing most spring greens like spinach, baby kale, chard, etc. It treats the greens gently while illuminating their green color. The splash of lemon at the end adds a brightening acidic touch.
To make your ramps, first trim off the roots. Then, you can cook the ramps whole or cut separate the white bottoms from the green tops. The whites take longer to cook, so I like to trim them. Next, warm the olive oil in a pan, then put in the garlic, stirring gently to make sure it does not burn. Then add in the ramp bottoms. After a few minutes, toss in the greens until they wilt, then turn off heat and serve. This will just take a few minutes and you do not want to overcook them, so it’s not the best time to grab a glass of wine. Wait until they are done for that (and by the way, white is the preferred choice).
Personally, I love my ramps on top of a cracker or slice of bread that has a thin layer of hummus or olive tapenade. It is a simple snack to make and really tunes you in to the start of spring.
Nutrition wise, ramps really ramp it up with a healthy dose of Vitamins A & C, selenium and chromium. Chromium is an essential mineral identified by the National Institutes of Health as important to the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and insulin.
Spring certainly gets us off to a healthy start with ramps, along with other gorgeous spring beauties like radishes, chives, baby greens and sprouts. In fact, put these all together and you have an immune-booster, allergy clearing, powerhouse of a lunch!