Ramps. Just the thought of them at the Greenmarket makes me really excited. Ramps taste like the essence of spring given that they are the first greens to come up after a long winter of tubers and root vegetables.
I’m not the only one with ramp-mania either. Unfortunately, the dramatic rise in their popularity over the past few years has been raising concerns that foragers are over-harvesting to meet demand.
Ramps are notoriously difficult to cultivate. For the most part, they are a foraged food that is found and plucked in the wild. To ensure that the plant keeps growing requires foragers to leave their bulbs intact — problematic since most ramps are sold with their bulbs and roots attached.
So what do you do if you love them like I do? Should you stop eating them all together?
You don’t have to give up ramps as long as you stay committed to being a responsible consumer. If you forage for them, take no more than you can reasonably eat. If you can, just take the leaves and leave the bulbs in the ground. If you buy them, try to buy them from a farmer you trust. Talk to your farmer and make sure that their ramps are coming to you in a sensible and sustainable way. The Greenmarket NYC closely monitors and regulates foraged food to ensure that things like ramps will continue to be around in the future.
Celebrate their scarcity because that is what makes them special!
Once you get your hands on some sensibly-foraged ramps, this is a great way to prepare them for lunch or for a light supper. I hesitate to even call this a recipe since it is such a simple way to prepare them, but simple preparations are oftentimes the best way to showcase especially great ingredients.
Thickly-sliced bread, as many pieces per person as you like
1 garlic clove
4 ramps per person, cleaned and bulbs split in half if they are on the large side
1 egg per person
Salt and black pepper
How to prepare:
1. Generously brush both sides of your bread with olive oil. Broil the pieces until they are golden brown. Rub a garlic clove on both sides of the bread, including the edges.
2. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the ramps to the pan when the oil begins to shimmer. When the leaves have wilted and the bulbs have begun to turn translucent, shape the ramps into a circle and crack an egg into the center. Add a knob of butter to the pan. When the butter has melted, begin spooning the hot fat over the egg yolk as it cooks. When the whites have set, use a spatula to gently remove the egg and the ramps from the pan to a plate. Season the egg and ramps with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with the garlic-rubbed toast.