The Case Against Ramps

By Kay Steiger

J. Geils Band totally had it wrong. These are what stink.

J. Geils Band totally had it wrong. Ramps are what stink.

Let’s be honest: ramps smell so bad that they will stink up your car on the way home from the farmers market in Silver Spring and make your whole house smell while you run to the market. Everyone seems to be talking about how awesome ramps are lately and Josh from Two Helmets can make pretty pictures with them. Amanda, Ben Miller*, and I saw them at the Silver Spring farmers market in bundles that were 3 for $12.  So, holding my nose, I decided to give them a spin.

I did a quick search and discovered many people (including the Amatur Gourmet) recommended using them in pesto instead of basil. I gave it a try. Ultimately, the dish ended up being okay — definitely a sharper flavorful than regular pesto. But the pesto, while interesting and different, wasn’t really all that more awesome than regular pesto.

They seem to have a good flavor with soups (hopefully Amanda will post her recipe that I tried soon), but I still tend to think they’re overrated.  I didn’t love my ramp pesto enough to go out of my way to make it again. It’s totally possible that the ramps I had weren’t the best. The upper part were soggy and a bit gross by the time we made them into pesto, and we pretty much had to throw most of the tops away. But still, I don’t  see what all the fuss is about.

What do you think? Am I totally out of line?

*Incidentally Ben bought a rather nasty gin and ramp cocktail at PS7s for the IFA happy hour.


20 responses to “The Case Against Ramps

  1. unionmaidn

    Huh? What are ramps? they sound like a Middle English affliction.

  2. I tried ramps for the first time this season and my biggest complaint has to be the cost. Good god. I could’ve fed the family for the amount I paid on three bushels. /hyperbole

    I liked the pesto I made, I ended up smearing it on steaks like a sort of freak chimichurri sauce. On pasta it was just kinda meh but I’m not a fan of pesto pasta in general. I still have plenty so I’m going to try it on pizza next.

    They may not be incredibly versatile but I don’t think there’s a case against them. It’s exciting to get something new and springtime-y after 8 months of gourds and sweet potatoes. Not everything that comes out of the ground can be a truffle.

  3. People who are (overly) sensitive to “stinky” foods often don’t like ramps. But for those of us who embrace stink and power, they are great. Don’t over-think them or feel the need to do anything cute with them. Just start by using them instead of garlic, or onion, or shallot, or whatever, in a simple vegetable dish that you make up as you go along – some sauteed [whatever vegetable] in olive oil with some chopped-up ramps and salt and pepper. Or chop them and heat them in a little oil before putting in some eggs and scrambling. Yum.

  4. Yeah, I honestly didn’t even know they existed until I saw the IFA pictures and some stuff on Bittman’s blog… but then I’m fairly new to the foodie thing… but I think the wiki says they taste like a combo of “onions and strong garlic”, which sounds right up my alley.

  5. See! I knew I wasn’t alone!

  6. I love ramps more than I love my kids.

  7. You people are crazy – except for Sam. I find ramps to be really wonderful, just chopped and sauteed in butter, maybe w/ a little balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. They really combine the flavor of a scallion or green garlic with the heft of a braising green – I also find them to be a little peppery. What’s not to like about that?

    I don’t think they are a revolutionary vegetable or something (and prob not worth too many $12 farmer’s market outlays) – but I’ve never had anything that replicates the taste on its own.

  8. Yeah, you’re out of line. Ramp pesto is plain stupid. Saute ramps simply as a side dish–try it with bacon–or add to a stir fry. You know how to use leeks, right? Garlic, right? Ramps are in the same family, except the green parts are edible. Enjoy them for what they are, not for what some amateur is trying to turn them into.

  9. a tale-ium about allium

    ~two rabbits in the blue ridge,
    were hiding in the weeds,
    breakfasting on scallions
    and some cones with seeds.
    but little rabbit felt dyspeptic,
    and with sudden cramps,
    he tried to feel better
    and chomped upon ramps.

    he felt a great deal better,
    and wished to play,
    but he was so very stinky,
    his friend ran away.

    he tried to cajole brown rabbit,
    to play hide and seek,
    but his friend said,
    “i shall leave west virginia,
    if you eat one more leek!

    so ramps grew rampant in the little glen,
    and the rabbit agreed to not eat them again.
    and one day, two footers came through le bois
    and took all the ramps for their vichysssoise.

    ~and the moral of this little tale-ium,
    is, be mindful of your loved ones,
    if you are eating allium.

  10. what should you not put in your
    shalos manos basket next to the hamentaschen,
    if you want to keep your friends?

    allium porrum!!!!


  11. The ramp tops are precisely what I like to use for the pesto…a bit milder than the bottoms and green. Come to think of it, most unused green bits laying around here usually end up in the stock pot or a pesto…parsley, sage, carrot tops, turnip greens, etc.

    @Bruske…agreed that the bottoms should be used as garlic and shallots are.

    @Kay…that gin thing was indeed wretched!

  12. And yes, for their price, I agree, they really aren’t worth it.

    To do: go to WV and pull up the weed myself. Then find some free puslane, too.

  13. My husband pulled them off his pizza Sunday night. I had to smile. He ate a raw one that morning and I had to stay away. Stinky…

  14. Ramp pesto? That seems like a huge waste of money. Just saute the bulbs with some asparagus and then throw in the greens a couple of minutes before they finish.

  15. I liked that gin thing!

  16. If ramp pesto is so terrible, why do so many food blogs and recipe sites recommend it?

  17. kaysteiger: Because food blogs and recipes sites are full of people who don’t know what they are talking about.

    FWIW, I don’t think ramp pesto is terrible, but it is a poor way to honor the vegetable.

    Grill them whole and serve them atop an orb of mozzarella di bufala.

    Or, slice them up and saute the white ends in olive oil. Add al dente bucatini and the green ends. Toss until integrated and the green ends just begin to wilt.

    To me, ramps are the ultimate expression of Alliums. Like a perfect scallion; half garlic, half shallot. Would you make a pesto out of shallots?

  18. Pingback: Taste T.O. - Food & Drink In Toronto » Food For Thought - Thursday, May 7th

  19. Expensive?? Pesto??
    Solution 1 – put in some effort and find a patch. There are plenty of them within 1 hour of Toronto here, it just takes a bit of effort.
    Solution 2 – Soup, soup, soup. Go with a Leek and Potato, but swap out most of the leeks with ramps … mmmmmm

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