Last week some of our staff members took to the forests of Vermont to harvest ramps. Found in the spring, ramps are wild onions that look similar to scallions or leeks and taste like a spicy garlicky onion. Historically, the wild onion was a staple food source for the native American tribe of the Abenaki who settled throughout Vermont with a large portion finding their home in Winooski River Valley. The Winooski River was named after the ramps, meaning “the place where the onions are” in Abenaki. These days, ramps are mainly foraged, making them a darling of farmers’ markets.
The foraging season is relatively short and starts early in spring just as the snow melts and the greens sprout out of the ground yielding slender leek-like vegetable. However on Chef Doug’s recommendation, we planned our adventure later in May so that the bulbs would be larger. In order to forage sustainably, we followed the one-in-five rule, where one plant was harvested for every five left in the ground.
Composed of a pearly white bulb, tuber and leafy green stem, all parts of this allium can be used in the kitchen. Much like onions, ramps are delicious in a number of ways: try roasting or grilling them on their own or incorporating them in other dishes. Our personal favorite is a ramp pesto. We raided the Juniper Kitchen for Chef Doug’s recipe for you to try at home.