Tis the season for wild ramps. And wild ramp pesto with walnuts. Truly the perfect bite of garlicky, oniony, and springy. Ramps are only around for a few short weeks each spring so run, don’t walk, to your farmers market this weekend to pick up your wild ramps.
What is a wild ramp?
Ramps are not easily cultivated, therefor they must be foraged. They grow wild in the eastern US and Canada. Found at specialty grocers, farmers markets or maybe your own back yard. Ramps are often called spring onions or wild leeks but they are neither. Ramps have stronger garlic flavor with a bit of sweetness like an onion.
We transplanted ramps a few years ago from a friend’s property to a very shady, wet area in our yard. Amazingly they grew, but we don’t have enough to pull for eating. Yet. Fingers crossed for next year. We picked these beauties up at a local farm stand.
Paired with this pasta I recently discovered at Whole Foods, it was absolutely divine. I need to give RP’s Pasta Company a nod. This was the best gluten free pasta I didn’t have to make from scratch. A total non-sponsored shout out to this goodness!
How to Use Wild Ramps
First off, ramps require a significant amount of cleaning. These babies are special and therefore so worth the extra effort. Now that they are cleaned up, how do we use wild ramps in our cooking?
We use ramps in 4 ways:
- Pesto- always a favorite, and great over pasta, fish, meat or veggies. You can plan on freeing some but our guess is there won’t be any leftovers.
- Grilled- keep them whole and cook them hot, just like a charred scallion
- Sauté- caramelize the white and pink parts, throw in the green tops at the end. They pare especially well with mushrooms.
- Pickled- Pickling the bottoms and use in your favorite East Asia or Indian dishes. A great way to keep the wild ramp love going past Spring.
How to Make Wild Ramp Pesto
Rather than the traditional use of pine nuts and olive oil in pesto, I prefer walnuts and walnut oil to pair perfectly with the ramps. Where pine nuts have a soft nutty taste that compliments basil. Walnuts pack a punch that can stand up to the pungent ramp. If you don’t have walnut oil on hand substituting olive oil is perfectly acceptable.
Just like with all pesto, we toast the walnuts first to bring out their nuttiness. But this wild ramp pesto has a twist. Sautéing the white and greens part for just a couple minutes will bring out a sweetness that perfectly complements the garlicky bite.
Most chefs will tell you they blanch the green leaves to keep their vibrant color. I don’t find this really matters if you are eating it right away.
Other than that, pesto as usual. Blender, oil, salt and pepper to taste. And don’t forget that squeeze of lemon. It really makes a difference!
Leave a comment… how do you like your ramps?
- 1 bunch wild ramps
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup walnut oil, divided or sub EVOO
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast optional
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Thoroughly clean ramps. Separate green leaves from white/ pink roots.
- Place a saute pan over medium high heat, toast the walnuts 3 to 5minutes. Keep a close eye, walnuts go from toasty to burnt quickly. Add toasted walnuts to blender or food processor. Give it a quick whirl to to break up the pieces.
- Return pan to stove, reduce heat to medium. Add 1-2 tbsp of walnut oil to the pan. Add green and white ramp parts, saute 3 to 5 minutes until soften. Move to blender.
- Add green ramp leaves, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and pinch of salt to blender. Pulse to combine. Slowly add the walnut oil while blending on high speed. Start with a 1/3 cup of walnut oil and add more, if needed, to get to desired consistency.
- Adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.